Russia’s Bombing of Children’s Hospital at Kyiv Backfiring on Kremlin, Stiffening Resolve of Ukraine and Its Allies

The United Nations Security Council is to hold today an emergency session in response.

Maxym Marusenko/NurPhoto via AP
Aftermath of the bombing of Ohmatdyt Children's Hospital at Kyiv, July 8, 2024. Maxym Marusenko/NurPhoto via AP

Russia’s bombing of Ukraine’s largest children’s hospital is backfiring. Monday’s destruction of Okhmatdyt hospital at Kyiv, the nation’s press capital, immediately produced a stream of photos into the world’s press: child cancer patients waiting for transfers to a new hospital, their bottle drips by their sides, and mothers using napkins to protect their newborns from cement dust.

The hospital’s destruction has quickly elevated to be an international cause célèbre on a par with Russian army rapes and murders of civilians at the Kyiv suburb of Bucha and the Russian air force bombing at Mariupol of a theater filled with hundreds of women and children. 

Photos of destruction at Kyiv quickly overwhelmed images of what was supposed to be a diplomatic victory at Moscow for President Putin — the arrival at Moscow yesterday of Prime Minister Modi. The choice of Russia by Mr. Modi for his  first foreign visit since his reelection last month was seen as easing Mr. Putin’s international pariah status. 

Instead, in Europe, Italy’s foreign minister accused Russia of war crimes. France’s foreign ministry called the attack “barbaric” saying deliberate attacks on a children’s hospital “added to the list of war crimes” of Russia in Ukraine. A video shows a Kinzhal or “Dagger” cruise missile nose diving into the hospital in broad daylight. Analysts say the missile, released from a Russian bomber, seemed to have been programmed with the hospital’s coordinates.

Rescuers and volunteers clean up the rubble and search victims after Russian missile hit the country's main children hospital Okhmadit during massive missile attack on many Ukrainian cities in Kyiv, Ukraine, Monday, July 8, 2024. A major Russian missile attack across Ukraine killed at least 20 people and injured more than 50 on Monday, officials said, with one missile striking a large children’s hospital in the capital, Kyiv, where emergency crews searched rubble for casualties.
Aftermath of the bombing of the children hospital Okhmadit at Kyiv on July 8, 2024. AP/Efrem Lukatsky

At New York, the United Nations Security Council is to hold today an emergency session in response to Monday’s bombings  which killed at least 41 and wounded over 100. The session was called by America, Britain,  France, Ecuador, and Slovenia. The British ambassador to the UN posted on X: “We will call out Russia’s cowardly and depraved attack on the hospital.” 

The UN secretary-general, Antonio Guterres, strongly condemned the Russian strikes on the children’s hospital and a maternity hospital as “particularly shocking.” He said:  “Directing attacks against civilians and civilian objects is prohibited by international humanitarian law, and any such attacks are unacceptable and must end immediately.”

At Washington today, the stream of graphic images from Kyiv is expected to stiffen spines at the annual summit of leaders of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. They gather to mark the 75th anniversary of the trans-Atlantic pact’s founding. With Europe enduring its biggest land war since World War II, NATO is increasingly reenergized.

“Putin is daring NATO,” a former American ambassador to Russia, Michael McFaul, posted yesterday on X. “I hope the response from the alliance this week will be strong.”

As Western leaders converged on Washington, President Biden said Monday’s missile attacks across Ukraine were “a horrific reminder of Russia’s brutality.”  He added that the NATO allies will announce this week new measures to strengthen Ukraine’s air defenses. “It is critical that the world continues to stand with Ukraine at this important moment and that we not ignore Russian aggression.” 

 His ambassador to Kyiv, Bridget Brink, tweeted yesterday that: “This callous aggression — a total disregard for human life, jeopardizing European & Transatlantic security — is why leaders will make significant security commitments to Ukraine this week.”

Bombing photos also pushed aside news of a round the world peace-seeking trip by the Hungarian premier, Viktor Orbán, the new president of the Council of the European Union. Seeking to promote a ceasefire in Ukraine, Mr. Orbán traveled in the last week to Kyiv, Moscow, and Beijing. 

Blowback from the bombing has been so intense that Russia’s defense ministry accused the West yesterday of bombing the 600-bed hospital in a scheme to further anti-Russia goals.  The Ministry stated: “The goal of such provocations is to ensure the further inflow of funds for the Kiev regime and a continuation of the war until the last Ukrainian.”

However, far from an anomaly, more than 1,700 Ukrainian medical facilities have been hit since the start of the full-scale invasion in February 2022, according to the International Rescue Committee.

Yesterday, Ukraine’s air force said it shot down 30 out of the 38 missiles. The hypersonic Kinzhal missile that hit the children’s hospital is exceptionally difficult to intercept. Traveling at 10 times the speed of sound, it can fly as low as 160 feet above ground. The warhead is usually 1,000 pounds of explosives. Reacting to the worst civilian casualties from Russian bombings this year, Ukraine’s government declared today a national day of mourning.

The president’s chief of staff, Andriy Yermak, posted on X that the Kinzhal “contains dozens of microelectronics produced in NATO countries. We must stop this and bring it up at the NATO summit. The attack on children must be one of the key topics.”

Molfar, a Ukrainian community of open source intelligence analysts, said the cruise missiles were launched from war jets based at two bases, Shaykovka, near Moscow, and Engels-2, near Saratov. Molfar listed the names and identity numbers of pilots who may have been involved. Even though these bases are 700 miles east of Ukraine, the Russian airmen are not always safe. Last February, Ukrainian intelligence claimed that one of their agents shot a Tu-95 bomber crew commander at Engels, Oleg Stegachev.

The New York Sun

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