Russia accused of bombing 135 hospitals, shelters housing hundreds as death toll rises in Ukraine

Evacuees cross a destroyed bridge as they flee the city of Irpin, northwest of Kyiv, on March 7, 2022. - Ukraine dismissed Moscow’s offer to set up humanitarian corridors from several bombarded cities on Monday after it emerged some routes would lead refugees into Russia or Belarus. The Russian proposal of safe passage from Kharkiv, Kyiv, Mariupol and Sumy had come after terrified Ukrainian civilians came under fire in previous ceasefire attempts.
Evacuees cross a destroyed bridge as they flee the city of Irpin, northwest of Kyiv, on March 7, 2022. - Ukraine dismissed Moscow’s offer to set up humanitarian corridors from several bombarded cities on Monday after it emerged some routes would lead refugees into Russia or Belarus. The Russian proposal of safe passage from Kharkiv, Kyiv, Mariupol and Sumy had come after terrified Ukrainian civilians came under fire in previous ceasefire attempts. | DIMITAR DILKOFF/AFP via Getty Images

An art school sheltering about 400 civilians and a theater with more than 1,000 others are among the many buildings destroyed or damaged by Russia’s military in Ukraine’s embattled city of Mariupol, as some fear residents are being transported to “concentration and prisoner camps” in Russia.

Officials in Ukraine have accused Russian troops of bombing Art School No. 12 in Mariupol, an eastern city on the Sea of Azov that once was home to 400,000 people but has been encircled by the Russian military for the past two weeks. 

The city council reported that about 400 people were taking shelter at the school.

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“It is known that the building was demolished and there are still peaceful people under the rubble,” the city council said in a statement, according to The Associated Press.  

The alleged bombing of the school comes just days after Russian forces were accused of bombing a theatre in the city that was said to have sheltered over 1,400 civilians. On Friday, Ukrainian commissioner for human rights, Lyudmyla Denisova, said that as many as 130 people had been rescued from the theatre while over 1,300 were still trapped. The number of casualties has not been reported. 

Ukraine’s First Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Emine Dzheppar claimed last week that Russian forces had not allowed Ukraine’s security services to rescue people from the theatre’s rubble. 

“Inhumanity of Russian troops has no limits,” she tweeted

In a tweet Monday, Dzheppar stated that Russian forces had shelled 135 hospitals since the invasion began last Feb. 24. 

“Russia wants civilians to be unable to receive medical care,” she claimed. “Russia is a war criminal.”

Since Russia began its unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, at least 925 civilians have been killed and 1,496 injured as of a Monday update from the United Nations. Among those killed are 39 children. 

“Most of the civilian casualties recorded were caused by the use of explosive weapons with a wide impact area, including shelling from heavy artillery and multiple-launch rocket systems, and missile and air strikes,” the U.N. statement reads. 

Mariuple’s City Council accused Russian forces of forcibly taking thousands of residents to camps and redirecting some of them to remote cities in Russia. 

Mariupol Mayor Vadym Boychenko voiced concern about alleged deportations of Ukrainian citizens into Russia, comparing such actions to the treatment of Jews in Germany during the Holocaust. 

“What the occupiers are doing today is familiar to the older generation, who saw the horrific events of World War II,” Boychenko was quoted as saying by CNN National Security Correspondent Alex Marquardt.

On Telegram, Ukraine’s human rights spokesperson Lyudmyla Denisova reported that Mariupol residents were transported across the border to a city in Russia that is about 60 miles from Mariupol. From there, Denisova alleges, Ukrainians are shipped by train even deeper into Russia. 

The New York Times reports that Mariupol’s assistant mayor, Pyotr Andryuschenko, claimed that “between 4,000 and 4,500” residents have been forcibly taken across the border to Taganrog. 

Allegations that Russia is transporting Ukrainians deep into Russia could not be verified. Although Russia hasn’t addressed the allegations, the AP notes that Russian media reported busloads of refugees arriving from Ukraine in the last week. 

The U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, said on CNN’s “State of the Union” that she had “only heard” about the allegations of Mariupol residents being relocated across the Russian border. 

“I can’t confirm it. But I can say it is disturbing,” Thomas-Greenfield said. “It is unconscionable for Russia to force Ukrainian citizens into Russia and put them in what will basically be concentration and prisoner camps. So, this is something that we need to verify. Russia should not be moving Ukrainian citizens against their will into Russia.”

Reports indicate that around 350,000 residents of Mariupol were hiding in shelters and basements as of last Friday. The city council claims that, on average, 50 to 100 bombs are dropped on Mariupol each day. 

In his daily address Sunday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said that the city’s destruction “will go down in history” as a war crime.

“The terror the occupiers did to the peaceful city will be remembered for centuries to come. And the more Ukrainians tell the world about it, the more support we find,” Zelensky said. 

In her interview with CNN, Thomas-Greenfield was asked about the possibility of Russia using chemical weapons in Ukraine. She said the Russians came to the U.N. Security Council Friday with the “spurious accusations that the U.S. was supporting Ukraine’s chemical weapons programs.”

“What we see happening is, again, this is a false flag effort by the Russians. They are advancing what they might intend to do. We’ve seen that happen before. They are the ones who’ve used chemical weapons. They used them in Syria. They’ve used chemical weapons against their own people,” she continued.

“And we are concerned that they may use chemical weapons in Ukraine,” she added. “We’ve been clear. If they escalate to this level, we will respond aggressively to what they are doing. You’ve seen the consequences so far of our actions against Russia and against Putin, and they are feeling those consequences, and they will feel more if they take this unfortunate decision to use chemical weapons.”

Russia President Vladimir Putin said his troops would allow safe corridors out of the city only if Ukrainian fighters lay down their arms.

Russian National Defense Control Center’s head Colonel-General Mikhail Mizintsev was quoted as saying by the Russian news agency TASS that residents of the city had been given until 5 a.m. Monday to respond to the offer, USA Today reported. Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk rejected the idea outright.

“There can be no talk of any surrender, laying down of arms. We have already informed the Russian side about this,” she was quoted as saying. “I wrote: ‘Instead of wasting time on eight pages of letters, just open the corridor.’”

Earlier this month, the Russian military exploded a bomb at the entrance of a Ukrainian Orthodox monastery in the Donetsk region just hours after President Zelensky said he was ready to hold peace talks with Russia in Jerusalem.

The Holy Dormition Svyatogorsk Lavra had sheltered more than 500 evacuees, including 200 children. A bomb exploded 54 yards away from the entrance, injuring several refugees, according to the Center for Strategic Communications and Information Security (CSCIS).

In Russia, police have arrested thousands of people protesting against Ukraine’s invasion amid widespread censorship of social media and news outlets.

Moscow wants Ukraine to stop military action, never join NATO, acknowledge Crimea as Russian territory, and give independence to separatist-controlled regions of Donetsk and Luhansk.

Zelensky said earlier he would be willing to halt the military action in Ukraine, not seek NATO membership and give independent status to the contested territories. Still, he insisted his forces would not give in.

“I’m ready for a dialogue, but we’re not ready for surrender,” Zelensky told ABC News earlier this month.

About 100 Christian leaders in the United States, more than 280 priests and deacons of the Russian Orthodox Church, and over 400 ministers of Evangelical churches in Russia have called for reconciliation and an immediate end to Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine.

“We mourn the ordeal to which our brothers and sisters in Ukraine were undeservedly subjected,” the Russian Orthodox clerics wrote in their open letter. “The Last Judgment awaits every person.”

The clerics added: “No earthly authority, no doctors, no guards will protect from this judgment. Concerned about the salvation of every person who considers himself a child of the Russian Orthodox Church, we do not want him to appear at this judgment, bearing the heavy burden of mother’s curses.”

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