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Ukraine accuses Russia of genocide after bombing of a children’s hospital

A view shows cars and a building of a hospital destroyed by an airstrike in Mariupol
A view shows cars and a building of a hospital destroyed by an airstrike amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine in Mariupol, Ukraine, in this handout picture released March 9, 2022. Press Service of the National Police of Ukraine/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS – THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. TPX PICTURES OF THE DAY

March 10, 2022

LVIV, Ukraine (Reuters) – Russia’s war in Ukraine entered its third week on Thursday without achieving any of its key objectives, despite killing thousands, making more than two million refugees and forcing thousands to retreat to besieged cities to hide under relentless bombardment.

Ukrainian forces, including citizen soldiers who last month would have dreamed of firing a gun in anger, held out in Kyiv and other front lines while Russian troops, tanks and artillery slowly advanced from the north, south and east.

Moscow’s stated goal of crushing Ukraine’s military and toppling the pro-Western elected government of President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has remained unattainable, while Zelenskyy has poured unwavering and lethal military aid from the West across the Polish and Romanian borders.

Western-led sanctions aimed at cutting off Russia’s economy and government from international financial markets began to take hold as the Russian stock market and ruble plummeted and ordinary Russians rushed to hoard cash.

Zelenskyy accused Russia of genocide after Ukrainian officials said Russian planes bombed a children’s hospital on Wednesday, burying patients in rubble despite a ceasefire deal for people to flee the besieged city of Mariupol.

The attack, which authorities said left injured women in labor and children in the rubble, underscored U.S. warnings that the biggest attack on a European state since 1945 could become increasingly grueling after Russia’s early failure.

The White House condemned the hospital bombing as a “barbaric use of military force against innocent civilians.”

The Russians earlier vowed to cease fires to allow at least some trapped civilians to flee the port city, where hundreds of thousands have sought refuge without water or electricity for more than a week. Both sides blamed each other for the failure of the evacuation.

“What kind of country is this, the Russian Federation, that is afraid of hospitals, afraid of maternity hospitals and destroying them?” Zelenskyy said in a televised address late Wednesday.

Zelenskyy repeated his call for the West to tighten sanctions against Russia “so that they can sit down at the negotiating table and end this brutal war”. The bombing of the children’s hospital was “proof that a genocide is taking place in Ukraine”.

The governor of Donetsk region said 17 people were injured in the attack.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Reuters: “Russian forces are not firing on civilian targets.” Russia is calling its incursion a “special operation” to disarm its neighbor and expel leaders it calls “neo-Nazis.”

Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry released video footage of what it described as a hospital showing holes where windows should have been in a three-story building. Huge heaps of smoldering debris littered the crime scene.

The UN human rights organization said it was verifying the number of victims in Mariupol. The incident “complements our deep concern about the indiscriminate use of weapons in populated areas,” he added through a spokesman.

Among the more than 2 million refugees from Ukraine, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said Wednesday that more than 1 million children have fled the country since the invasion began on February 24. At least 37 were killed and 50 injured, it said.

The International Committee of the Red Cross said homes had been destroyed across Ukraine. “Hundreds of thousands of people have no food, no water, no heating, no electricity and no medical care,” it said.

TALKS IN TURKEY

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is set to hold talks with his Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba on Thursday, the first meeting between the two since the invasion.

Ukraine seeks a ceasefire, liberation of its territories and resolution of all humanitarian issues, Kuleba said, adding, “Honestly… my expectations for the talks are low.”

Moscow is demanding that Kyiv adopt a neutral position and drop efforts to join the NATO alliance.

Zelenskyi said in an interview with VICE on Wednesday that he is confident that Putin will eventually agree to talks. “I think he will. I think he sees that we are strong. He will. We need some time,” he said.

Russia has been hit by Western sanctions and the withdrawal of foreign firms. Nestle, cigarette maker Philip Morris and Sony on Wednesday joined the list of multinationals pulling out of the country.

The United States is considering sanctions against nuclear power utility Rosatom, a senior Biden administration official said Wednesday.

The World Bank’s chief economist said Moscow was on the brink of default. The Kremlin is taking measures to shore up the economy and was planning to respond to a US ban on its oil and energy exports as the ruble fell to record lows.

The US House of Representatives on Wednesday voted to provide Ukraine with $13.6 billion in aid and submitted the bill to the Senate.

(Reporting by Reuters bureaus; Writing by Stephen Coates; Editing by Michael Perry)

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Bobby Allyn

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