Hundreds of Ukrainian children evacuated from hospital hit by Russian missile

geneva — U.N. agencies have condemned a wave of Russian missile attacks Monday on densely populated areas of Ukraine that has killed dozens of people and forced the evacuation of hundreds of children from a hospital in the capital city Kyiv, severely damaged by a probable “direct hit” by a Russian missile.

“Yesterday’s massive missile attacks across Ukraine, including the horrifying strike on Okhmatdyt, Ukraine’s largest children’s referral hospital, once again lay bare the disastrous consequences of the war waged against Ukraine by the Russian Federation,” Volker Türk, high commissioner for human rights said.

Türk who presented his latest report on the situation in Ukraine to the U.N. human rights council Tuesday, said he was “outraged by the sight of children, already so vulnerable in war, suffering the terror of attack while receiving medical treatment.”

He said May saw the highest monthly verified civilian casualty number in nearly a year, with 174 civilians killed and 690 injured because of the Russian ground offensive and aerial strikes.

Speaking from Kyiv Tuesday, Danielle Bell, the head of the U.N. human rights monitoring mission in Ukraine, called the attack on the hospital “one of the most egregious” that we have seen since the onset of the full-scale invasion.

She told journalists in Geneva, “We have assessed the factors and the likelihood that it was a direct hit of a KH101 missile launched by the Russian Federation, which suggests that it was a direct hit.”

“Analysis of the video footage and assessment made at the incident site indicates a high likelihood that the children’s hospital suffered a direct hit rather than receiving damages due to an intercepted weapons system.”

Bell said, “We do not have the competence to make the determination with 100 percent certainty whether it was a direct hit or not,” but added that “our military experts visited the site yesterday and observed damages at the site that were consistent with a direct hit.”

Russia has denied targeting the hospital, claiming it was hit by a Ukrainian air defense missile.

The Okhmatdyt hospital is one of two hospitals in Kyiv that treat children and women that came under fire Monday. The United Nations reports deadly strikes also hit civilian infrastructure and key energy infrastructure facilities in the cities of Kryvyi Rih, Pokrovsk and Dnipro.

Ukrainian authorities report Russian airstrikes killed at least 41 people and injured more than 190.

At the time of the attack, 670 child patients, mainly inpatients, were at the hospital together with more than 1,000 medical staff. Joyce Msuya, acting undersecretary-general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief coordinator, said 27 civilians, including four children, reportedly were killed and 117 people, including seven children, were injured.

“The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights is verifying figures while rescue workers, hospital staff and volunteers continue to clear rubble in search for people trapped under debris,” she said.

Monitoring Mission head Danielle Belle said the casualty toll would have been much higher had the staff not moved the children to a bunker Monday morning when the air raid sirens went off.

“The explosion destroyed the toxicology department where children were receiving dialysis only minutes before the missile impacted. The attack also damaged the intensive care, surgical and oncology wards,” she said, emphasizing that 600 children, many suffering from cancer and kidney disease, have been transferred to other hospitals in and around Kyiv.

“This terrible attack shows that nowhere is safe in Ukraine,” Bell said.

Echoing that sentiment, Catherine Russell in a statement Monday said that “Hospitals should be safe havens, and they are afforded a special level of protection under international law.

“Civilians, including children and the facilities and services they rely on, must always be protected,” she said.

Unfortunately, data from the World Health Organization show that far from being protected, civilians are being flagrantly attacked and prevented from receiving health care.

Since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, 2022, WHO has verified 1,882 attacks on health care facilities, resulting in 150 deaths, 379 injuries and 1,624 impacted health facilities.

It says 40% of these attacks affected primary health care, impeding Ukrainians from accessing basic health facilities.

“Attacks on health care deprive vulnerable populations of urgently needed care, undermine health systems, and jeopardize long-term public health goals,” WHO spokesperson Tarik Jasarevic said.

“Attacks on civil infrastructure, particularly energy sources and transmission centers, have caused power outages and disruptions in the water supply. This increases the risk of waterborne disease outbreaks and undermines the surveillance system’s ability to detect and respond timely to possible cases of waterborne, foodborne and other infectious diseases,” he said.

In his intervention at the U.N. human rights council, human right chief Türk called on Russia immediately “to cease its use of armed force against Ukraine” and to “scrupulously respect international humanitarian and human rights law.”

“My office will continue meticulously to monitor, document and report on the ground realities of this awful war, including in occupied territory,” he said. “Accountability must be served.”

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