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Russia strikes a children's hospital in Kyiv and other sites across Ukraine

Emergency workers respond at the Okhmatdyt children's hospital hit by Russian missiles, in Kyiv, Ukraine, Monday.
Alex Babenko
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AP
Emergency workers respond at the Okhmatdyt children's hospital hit by Russian missiles, in Kyiv, Ukraine, Monday.

Editor's note: This story contains descriptions of casualties in missile attacks.

KYIV and LVIV, Ukraine — A barrage of Russian missiles hit Ukrainian cities Monday, killing at least 36 people and injuring more than 149, and destroying a large children’s hospital in Kyiv, the state emergency service said.

“We thought this was our bastion of security, that this couldn’t happen here,” Khrystyna Korvach, a 29-year-old anesthesiologist at the Okhmatdyt children’s hospital, told NPR. “But it didn’t turn out that way. Why? Because Russia wants to kill us all.”

At least 22 people, including two children, were killed in Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, and another 82 injured, according to the Kyiv City Military Administration. There were more casualties in central and eastern Ukrainian cities.

Ukrainian officials said the Russian military used fast-moving Kinzhal ballistic missiles and cruise missiles in the attacks, which came a day before the NATO summit in Washington, D.C.

Russia’s Defense Ministry said in a statement that its forces were responding to the “Kyiv regime’s attempts to damage Russian economic and energy facilities” and used long-range weapons to hit “military industrial facilities of Ukraine and air bases of the Ukrainian armed forces.” Russia denied hitting civilian targets and accused Ukraine of “hysterics” before the NATO summit.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called for an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council and said Russian President Vladimir Putin must be held accountable.

“We would like to see greater resolve in our partners and hear resolute responses to these attacks,” Zelenskyy said in Warsaw, where he stopped on his way to the NATO summit. “I can see a possibility for our partners to use their air defense systems in a way to hit the missiles that are carrying out attacks in our country.”

The strike on the Okhmatdyt hospital, one of Ukraine’s largest treatment centers for children with cancer, drew international outrage. The hospital’s toxicology ward was largely destroyed, as well as intensive care and surgery units. Rescue workers said people were trapped under the rubble. Zelenskyy posted a video to social media showing dazed bystanders trying to clear the ruins. Inside, blood was visible in patients’ rooms where windows had been blown out.

Korvach, the anesthesiologist, described chaotic scenes of trying to evacuate injured staff and terrified young patients, some of whom were on ventilators.

Children, hospital patients, hide in a bomb shelter at one of the largest children’s hospitals of Ukraine, Okhmatdyt, during a Russian missile attack on Monday.
Oleksandr Magula / Global Images Ukraine via Getty Images
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Global Images Ukraine via Getty Images
Children, hospital patients, hide in a bomb shelter at one of the largest children’s hospitals of Ukraine, Okhmatdyt, during a Russian missile attack on Monday.

“We started carrying the children in our arms to the emergency department on the ground floor,” she said.

Another anesthesiologist, Yaroslava Ierofieieva, 51, said the missiles struck when the hospital was busy with operations.

“Everything flew toward the doctors, the children,” she said. “The doctors finished in the operating rooms and walked into corridors filled with smoke. The children knew what was going on.”

The United Nations human rights chief, Volker Turk, said in a statement that a U.N. team on site saw children “receiving treatment for cancer in hospital beds set up in parks and on streets, where medical workers had quickly established triage areas among chaos, dust and debris.”

Monday’s attacks have added an urgency to Tuesday’s NATO summit, where the security alliance’s 75th anniversary will also be marked. NATO leaders are expected to rebuff Ukraine’s membership bid but U.S. officials say they will offer more air defense systems to help Ukraine fend off near-daily Russian strikes.

Ukrainian leaders say they have been defending not only their own country against Russia but the Western democratic ideals that underpin NATO.

A health care worker looks through a window of a damaged operating room as people clear rubble at the building of one of Ukraine's largest children’s hospitals, Okhmatdyt, partially destroyed by a Russian missile strike on Monday.
Yevhenii Zavhorodnii / Global Images Ukraine via Getty Images
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Global Images Ukraine via Getty Images
A health care worker looks through a window of a damaged operating room as people clear rubble at the building of one of Ukraine's largest children’s hospitals, Okhmatdyt, partially destroyed by a Russian missile strike on Monday.

“The major thing that has to come out of this summit has to be total unambiguity of the future of Ukraine in NATO,” said Ivanna Klympush-Tsintsadze, a member of Ukraine’s parliament and former government minister who has been advocating for Ukraine’s NATO membership for years. “And this is important not exclusively for Ukraine. That is important for NATO itself.”

Since Russia’s full-scale invasion in 2022, the U.S. and other NATO countries have contributed billions of dollars in military aid for Ukraine. A senior U.S. official told NPR that the U.S. is set to give more air defense systems to Ukraine at this week’s summit and also provide a longer-term commitment to security needs. The official asked not to be named to brief reporters before the administration publicly announces new weaponry for Ukraine.

But Mustafa Nayyem, who until last month was in charge of Ukraine’s reconstruction agency, said he’s frustrated that U.S. officials also insist that Ukraine should not join NATO until it wins the war.

“We understand that without support of NATO,” he said, “we will not be able to win, so it’s quite a dilemma and paradox.”

Ukrainians, too, have voiced frustration at what they view as some NATO countries’ focus on placating Russia.

“NATO calls itself one of the strongest, the most advanced alliances in the world, but they don’t act decisively,” said Hennadiy Menko, a 27-year-old veterinarian in Kyiv. “They seem like a dog on a chain that barks and that’s it.”

NPR’s Joanna Kakissis reported from Lviv. Kateryna Malofieieva and Polina Lytvynova reported from Kyiv. NPR’s Tom Bowman contributed to this report from Washington.

Copyright 2024 NPR

Joanna Kakissis is a foreign correspondent based in Kyiv, Ukraine, where she reports poignant stories of a conflict that has upended millions of lives, affected global energy and food supplies and pitted NATO against Russia.
Kateryna Malofieieva
Polina Lytvynova
[Copyright 2024 NPR]