Commentary on Political Economy

Thursday, 10 March 2022

 

Ukraine: World condemns ‘barbaric’ maternity hospital bombing

An injured pregnant woman is carried away from her maternity hospital after Russian shelling in Mariupol, Ukraine. Picture: AP
An injured pregnant woman is carried away from her maternity hospital after Russian shelling in Mariupol, Ukraine. Picture: AP

Ukraine’s representative to Australia has accused Russia of committing war crimes and genocide after its deadly attack on a ­maternity and children’s hospital in the besieged port city of Mariupol, equating Vladimir Putin’s ­attacks to those of Nazi Germany in World War II.

World leaders on Thursday condemned the Russian President’s attack on the hospital in the strategic Black Sea port, which killed a young girl and two others, as well as wounding 17, with the White House calling it “barbaric” and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson slamming it as a ­“depraved” act.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov responded by claiming the hospital was being used as a base by “ultra-radicals” who had long since driven out “the women in labour, nurses and general staff”.

Ukrainian charge d’affaires Volodymyr Shalkivskyi on Thursday echoed President Volodymyr Zelensky’s comments that the ­attacks on civilians since the February 24 invasion constituted war crimes and genocide.

“(There is) an intention to ­destroy Ukrainian ethnicity ­because he (Putin) wants to recreate the Soviet Union,” he told the National Press Club in Canberra.

“It is also important to remember that Nazi Germany’s bombarded Kyiv at 4am when people were asleep and Russian Kremlin … bombarded our cities at 5am.

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“This continuous bombardment … of civilian residential areas during a number of days, to my mind it is genocide. If it is not genocide, what is the definition of genocide?”

Mr Zelensky said 35,000 civilians had managed to flee cities via humanitarian corridors opened by besieging Russian forces for 12 hours on Wednesday, but there was little relief in Mariupol, where more than 1200 civilians have been killed in the nine-day siege.

Warning that there were ­“people and children” buried under the wreckage, Mr Zelensky shared footage with the world showing the destruction of the ­recently refurbished hospital. Videos shared by rescue workers captured pregnant mothers being evacuated on stretchers out of the charred remains of the building.

Ukrainian charge d’affaires Volodymyr Shalkivskyi at the National Press Club in Canberra on Thursday. Picture: Gary Ramage
Ukrainian charge d’affaires Volodymyr Shalkivskyi at the National Press Club in Canberra on Thursday. Picture: Gary Ramage

“A children’s hospital, a mat­ernity ward. How did they threaten the Russian Federation?” he said. “What is this country, the Russian Federation, that is afraid of hospitals, maternity wards and is destroying them? Were there ­little Banderovites? Were pregnant women going to shoot on Rostov? Did anyone in the maternity ward ­humiliate Russian speakers? Or was it de-nazification of a hospital?

“How much longer will the world be an accomplice, ignoring terror? Close the sky right now! Stop the killings! You have power but you seem to be losing ­humanity.”

Mr Zelensky has appealed to NATO to impose a no-fly zone over Ukraine, which the US and other Western nations have rejected. Mr Putin has warned such an act would be seen as a “participation in conflict”.

The Pentagon said on Thursday it had vetoed, for fear of provoking a nuclear war, a plan by Poland to transfer from the US Ramstein air base in Germany its entire fleet of Soviet-era MiG-29 jet fighters, which can be flown by Ukrainian pilots.

Mr Shalkivskyi called on Australia to expel the Russian ambassador in Canberra. “When you have more than 50 children killed in your country due to the shelling, yes I’d like the Russian ambassador to be expelled,” he said.

“I’d like to have a boycott of all Russian supply routes and services in Australia, I’d like to stop any shipping companies to enter Australian territorial waters, I’d like that Australia join the fight in countering Russian propaganda because they are still playing the narratives about Ukrainian suppression of Russian population.”

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