Desperate search for survivors trapped in Mariupol maternity hospital

Desperate battle to find survivors trapped in Mariupol maternity hospital: Rescuers comb rubble after ‘genocide’ bomb blast as temperatures plunge to -4C with fears any injured children will freeze to death

  • Rescuers are in a race against time to free survivors trapped under the rubble at Mariupol maternity hospital
  • The complex in the besieged southern port city suffered a ‘direct hit’ by Russian rockets, Zelensky has said
  • Footage shows one building totally destroyed and another badly damaged as wounded patients evacuate
  • Other clips show badly injured nurses being treated while pregnant women are carried out on stretchers  
  • Zelensky said children are trapped under rubble and argued the bombing is proof of ‘genocide’ 
  • At least 17 people were injured in the attack, including women who were in labour at the time, officials said 
  • Rescuers are now rushing to pull out survivors as temperatures are set to plunge to minus 4 degrees C  
  • Hours earlier, foreign minister had warned 3,000 babies in the city were without access to food or medicine
  • Residents of Mariupol have been forced to begin burying the dead in mass graves amid the bombardment
  • Boris Johnson also condemned the strike as ‘depraved’ and vowed to step up support to the Ukrainian military 

Rescuers on the scene at a maternity hospital in the Ukrainian city of Mariupol are locked in a race against time as they try to free survivors from the rubble after the complex suffered a ‘direct hit’ by Russian rockets yesterday, in what President Zelensky described as an ‘atrocity’ and ‘the ultimate proof of genocide against Ukrainians.’ 

Footage has emerged of badly wounded patients and nurses being evacuated from decimated buildings, while pregnant women were carried out on stretchers into a courtyard covered in rubble and littered with huge craters.

At least 17 people, including women in labour, were injured in the attack, officials said.

An official death toll has not yet been established but rescuers are working desperately to find and free those still trapped under the rubble with temperatures in the besieged city set to plunge to minus 4 degrees C overnight.

Many of the pregnant women present at the hospital were hiding the the basement at the time of the strike on the orders of hospital authorities – a move indicative of the harsh bombardment suffered by Mariupol’s citizens over the past week, and one which likely saved their lives.

Zelensky himself posted a video showing the badly damaged hospital buildings, filmed inside a destroyed ward room with its windows blown out and ceiling partially collapsed. More footage showed a car park covered in rubble and the smouldering wrecks of vehicles as injured families staggered into the freezing air while snow fell. 

‘Direct strike of Russian troops at the maternity hospital. People, children are under the wreckage. Atrocity! 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,’ the President tweeted.

He then took to Telegram, where he released a video statement from the presidential palace in Kyiv in which he said the hospital strike ‘is the ultimate proof that what is happening is the genocide of Ukrainians’.

‘Europeans, you can’t say you didn’t see what is happening. You have to tighten the sanctions until Russia can’t continue their savage war,’ he said.

‘What kind of country bombs hospitals? Is afraid of hospitals? Of a maternity ward? 

‘Was someone insulting Russians? Were pregnant women shooting in direction of Rostov? Was it the ”denazification” of a hospital? What the Russians did at Mariupol was beyond savagery.’

In a separate interview with Sky News, Zelensky added that Russian invaders want Ukrainians ‘to feel like animals’ by preventing them from accessing food or water, and implored NATO and the West to impose a no-fly zone over Ukraine.

‘They want us to feel like animals because they blocked our cities… because they don’t want our people to get some food or water.

‘Don’t wait for me to ask you several times, a million times, to close the sky. You have to phone us, to our people who lost their children, and say ”sorry we didn’t do it yesterday.”  

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson meanwhile condemned the strike as ‘depraved’ and vowed to step up support to the beleaguered Ukrainian military. 

‘There are few things more depraved than targeting the vulnerable and defenceless,’ the Prime Minister declared. 

‘The UK is exploring more support for Ukraine to defend against airstrikes and we will hold Putin to account for his terrible crimes,’ he added.  

Mr Johnson later on Wednesday committed to enacting the ‘maximum economic cost’ on Russia in wake of the bombing, while Foreign Secretary Liz Truss is expected to say aggression like Vladimir Putin’s must ‘never again’ be allowed to ‘grow unchecked’ in her speech tomorrow in Washington.  

Ms Truss will make comparisons between the Russian president’s actions and the World Trade Centre terror attack in 2001, and will urge the international community to change its approach to dealing with antagonistic world leaders.

The White House press secretary Jen Psaki also commented: ‘As a mother – I know a number of you are mothers – it is horrifying to see the barbaric use of military force to go after innocent civilians in a sovereign country.’

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Mariupol’s city council said the hospital had suffered ‘colossal’ damage but did not immediately give a figure of the wounded and dead. 

The deputy head of Mr Zelensky’s office, Kyrylo Tymoshenko, said authorities are trying to establish the number of victims.

Ukrainian MP Dmitry Gurin told the BBC: ‘There are a lot of dead and wounded women. We don’t know about children or newborns yet.’ 

Video footage from the aftermath of the attack showed that large parts of the hospital had completely collapsed, while blood soaked mattresses were pictured lying in hallways. 

‘Russia committed a huge crime,’ said Volodymir Nikulin, a top regional police official, standing in the ruins. ‘It is a war crime without any justification.’  

Mariupol has been under heavy Russian bombardment for more than a week, with food, water and electricity cut off several days ago – with the Red Cross describing conditions there as ‘apocalyptic’. 

The head of the Ukrainian Red Cross said yesterday’s strike will likely cause a complete collapse of paediatric care in Mariupol, as much of the hospital’s equipment and the paediatric care wards were reduced to ashes.

Local official Pavlo Kyrylenko confirmed the fears in a post on Facebook: The maternity ward in the city centre, the children’s ward and the therapy ward at the hospital – all destroyed in the Russian air raid.’

Just hours before the hospital was hit, Ukrainian foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba warned that 3,000 babies were without food or medicines and begged for a humanitarian corridor to allow them to flee. 

Moscow had promised a ceasefire in the city today so civilians could be evacuated, but failed for the fourth time to keep its word – a move Kyrylenko said ‘crossed the line of humanity’ before declaring Russians should ‘stop calling yourselves human beings.’

Residents of Mariupol were pictured on Wednesday dumping bodies into mass graves dug on the outskirts of the city in a desperate attempt to remove the dead amid the sustained Russian bombardment. 

It is not the first time that Russian airstrikes have targeted hospitals. While fighting alongside Bashar al-Assad in Syria in 2016, Putin’s generals were accused of ‘deliberately and systematically’ blowing up hospitals as a way of weakening the city of Aleppo ahead of a ground assault. 

Observers have suggested that Russia is now using a Syria-style battleplan against Ukraine after its early precision strikes failed.

The Ukrainian Healthcare Center, a think-tank based in the country, says that between the outbreak of fighting on February 24 and yesterday, their team documented 42 cases of Russian forces attacking either healthcare facilities or medics in order to deliberately provoke a ‘humanitarian crisis’.

Hospitals had been struck in every theatre where Russian forces were operating, the think-tank said, including Donetsk, Luhansk, Mariupol, Kyiv, Chernihiv, Kharkiv, Sumy, Zhytomyr, Zaporizhzhia and Mykolaiv.

‘The humanitarian catastrophe is a part of Russia’s hybrid war. [It] intends to spread panic, create a flow of refugees at the borders and force the Ukrainian government to surrender,’ said Pavlo Kovtonyuk, co-founder of the think-tank.

The bombing took place during what was supposed to be a ceasefire in Mariupol so that civilians could evacuate. It marks the fourth time a so-called ‘humanitarian corridor’ out of the city has failed because Russian forces opened fire. 

The mayor of Izyum, to the east of Kharkiv, said evacuations that were supposed to be underway there yesterday also had to stop because Russians were bombing the escape route. But in Sumy, a short distance away, some civilians had managed to make it out. Successful evacuations also took place in Enerhodar, in the south, with women and children able to leave.

It is feared the evacuations are simply a precursor to Russia stepping up its bombardment of the cities to wear down dogged Ukrainian defenders before rolling in troops and tanks to capture them. CIA Director William Burns, briefing Congress on Putin’s state of mind Tuesday, warned the ‘angry and frustrated’ despot is ‘likely to double down and try to grind down the Ukrainian military with no regard for civilian casualties.’ 

Rescuers on the scene at a maternity hospital in the Ukrainian city of Mariupol are locked in a race against time as they try to free survivors from the rubble after the complex suffered a ‘direct hit’ by Russian rockets yesterday

Ukrainian emergency employees and volunteers carry an injured pregnant woman from the damaged by shelling maternity hospital in Mariupol, Ukraine, Wednesday, March 9, 2022

A woman injured in Russian shelling of Mariupol’s maternity hospital stands outside wrapped in a blanket amid the carnage

An official death toll for the heinous attack has not yet been established but rescuers are working desperately to find and free those still trapped under the rubble with temperatures in the besieged city set to plunge to minus 4 degrees C overnight

An injured pregnant woman walks downstairs in a maternity hospital damaged by shelling in Mariupol, Ukraine, Wednesday, March 9, 2022

A Russian attack severely damaged the children’s hospital and maternity ward in the besieged port city of Mariupol, Ukrainian officials said. President Volodymyr Zelensky wrote on Twitter that there were ‘people, children under the wreckage’ of the hospital and called the strike an ‘atrocity’

President Zelensky described the attack as an ‘atrocity’, accusing world leaders of being ‘accomplice to terror’ by refusing to take out incoming Russian rockets

The burning wreckage of a car is seen outside a destroyed children’s hospital in the Ukrainian city of Mariupol, which has been under heavy Russian bombardment for more than a week

A Ukrainian soldier examines a huge crater caused by one of the Russian rockets, which fell just in front of a hospital building at the maternity hospital in Mariupol 

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson condemned the strike as ‘depraved’ and vowed to step up support to the beleaguered Ukrainian military

Wounded families and patients evacuate from a badly-damaged building at the hospital. Local officials said the damage was ‘colossal’ and were not able to give an immediate number on the injured and dead

 Wounded people are seen evacuating from the hospital, with President Zelensky repeating calls for a ‘no-fly’ zone to protect civilians. NATO has repeatedly refused the measure

Ukrainian emergency employees work at the side of the maternity hospital in Mariupol after it suffered a direct hit by Russian rocket strikes on Wednesday

Mass grave in Mariupol. Photographer Mstislav Chernov writes that people cannot bury the dead properly due to the constant shelling of the city. March 9, 2022

Ukrainian citizens are pictured on the outskirts of Mariupol dropping bodies into a mass grave as the city’s inhabitants work to remove the dead amid brutal shelling from Russian troops

Ukraine has rejected most Russian evacuation routes because they lead to Russian soil or that of its ally, Belarus, while routes that Ukraine has proposed have come under bombardment. The only successful evacuation to take place so far has been from Sumy to Poltava (in green)

Giving an update on the military situation yesterday afternoon, Ukrainian commanders said Russian units continue to try and surround the capital Kyiv with attacks taking place to the west and north-east of the city, with several highways blocked.

New footage released on Wednesday purported to show Russian armour just 13 miles from Kyiv as the invaders pushed through the town of Irpin. 

Fighting also raged close to the city of Sumy in an attempt to surround Ukraine’s second-largest city of Kharkiv, commanders said. Battles also broke out around the city of Mykolaiv in the south, as Russians attempted to push out from Kherson towards Odessa but were turned back. 

Ukrainian commanders also said Russian military police had rounded up 400 activists protesting against the invasion in the occupied city of Kherson – as the long arm of Vladimir Putin’s police state reached across the border to grab people on foreign soil.  

Russia’s defence ministry meanwhile acknowledged for the first time on Wednesday that some conscripts had been sent to fight on the frontlines in Ukraine, just days after Putin promised that only professional soldiers would be sent in. 

Some associations of soldiers’ mothers in Russia had raised concerns about a number of conscripts going incommunicado at the start of what Kremlin calls a ‘special military operation’ in Ukraine, suggesting they could have been sent to fight despite a lack of adequate training. 

The revelation comes just one week after Russia’s parliament passed a law imposing a prison term of up to 15 years for spreading intentionally ‘fake’ news about the military.

‘Unfortunately, we have discovered several facts of the presence of conscripts in units taking part in the special military operation in Ukraine. Practically all such soldiers have been pulled out to Russia,’ the defence ministry said, promising to prevent such situations in the future.

Liz Truss described the hospital attack as ‘absolutely abhorrent’, but continued to reject Ukraine’s request for a no-fly zone to be imposed over its skies.

Speaking in Washington, she said: ‘The best way we can protect the skies is through anti-air weaponry which the UK is now going to be supplying to Ukraine.

‘Of course the attack on the hospital is absolutely abhorrent, reckless and appalling.’

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said US involvement in a no-fly zone could ‘prolong’ the conflict, making it ‘even deadlier’.

‘Our goal is to end the war, not to expand it, including potentially expanding it to Nato territory,’ he said.

‘We want to make sure it is not prolonged, to the best of our ability. Otherwise, it is going to turn even deadlier, involve more people and I think potentially even make things harder to resolve in Ukraine itself.’

Earlier, UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace told the MPs that the Ministry of Defence was looking at whether they could supply anti-aircraft missiles as well as more anti-tank weapons.

‘We can all see the horrific devastation inflicted on civilian areas by Russian artillery and air strikes, indiscriminate and murderous,’ he said.

‘It is vital, therefore, that Ukraine maintains its ability to fly and to suppress Russian air attack.’

Mr Wallace said that ‘in response to a Ukrainian request’ the Government was exploring the donation of Starstreak high-velocity man-portable anti-air missiles.

He also confirmed that 3,615 Nlaw anti-tank weapons had been supplied – up from the previously-announced figure of 2,000 – and ‘small consignments’ of the Javelin system would also be sent to Ukraine.

Other Western officials expressed concern that Putin could next resort to the use of ‘non-conventional weapons’ such as chemical weapons, in the conflict. 

One official speaking on condition of anonymity said: ‘I think we’ve got good reason to be concerned about possible use of non-conventional weapons, partly because of what we’ve seen has happened in other theatres.

‘As I’ve mentioned before, for example, what we’ve seen in Syria, partly because we’ve seen a bit of setting the scene for that in the false flag claims that are coming out, and other indications as well.’

A baby is evacuated as people flee near a destroyed bridge to cross the Irpin River, on the outskirts of Kyiv, as Russian forces try to surround it in ahead of an attack

Ukrainian servicemen evacuate a person across Irpin River below a destroyed bridge as Russia’s attack on Ukraine continues

New members of the Territorial Defence Forces train to operate RPG-7 anti-tank launcher during military exercises in Kyiv

Recent conscripts into the Ukrainian Territorial Defence are trained to use NLAW anti-tank launchers in Kyiv, as the city prepares to defend itself from a Russian assault

New members of the Territorial Defence Forces are pictured on training exercises in Kyiv, as Russian troops try to surround the city in preparation for an assault

A satellite image taken on Tuesday but released Wednesday shows the destroyed road bridge on the outskirts of Irpin, near the Ukrainian capital Kyiv, which refugees have been using to flee the besieged city

Tracks created by Russian armoured vehicles are seen in the snow near Hostomel, on the outskirts of Kyiv, while heavily damaged buildings are seen to the right of the image

Putin meets his ‘children’s rights commissioner’ in Moscow as rockets destroy kid’s hospital 

Vladimir Putin has met with his ‘children’s rights commissioner’ in Moscow at the same time as shelling a maternity hospital in Mariupol in his latest vile display of hypocrisy.

The Russian leader spoke with Maria Lvova-Belova at the Kremlin today after overseeing a savage two-week campaign in Ukraine which has seen children killed, orphaned or forced to flee their homes.

Putin held the meeting to discuss changes to the law which will allow Russians to adopt Ukrainian orphans, after his forces killed their parents.


The changes will mean children from Donetsk and Luhansk who do not have Russian citizenship will qualify for adoption.

Putin said in the meeting: ‘These are extraordinary circumstances and it seems to me that we need to think not about bureaucratic delays, but about the interests of children.

‘I will make proposals, we will change the legislation. We will appeal to the State Duma, I am sure that the deputies will support you.’

Lvova-Belova said 1,090 orphans have been evacuated to Russia from the two republics.

An estimated one million children have been forced to flee Ukraine since the barbaric invasion was launched.

Before the rocket attack took place, Mariupol’s deputy mayor spoke about the dire situation in the besieged city – saying residents had been forced to use melted snow as drinking water, as it runs dangerously low on supplies.

Serhiy Orlov admitted that he didn’t know how long the blockaded urban centre would be able to continue under siege as he spoke to CNN’s John Berman about the devastating bombings on Wednesday.

Orlov said today was their fifth attempt to provide a humanitarian corridor to get supplies and transport into Mariupol, but he added that by 3pm local time, the buses had not made it anywhere near the city. 

He said many residents are unable to leave as Mariupol is being bombed ‘each second’, after Russian forces have broken their ceasefire agreement despite agreeing to open ‘humanitarian corridors’ allowing citizens to flee.

‘There is no ceasefire, any ceasefire in Mariupol, Mariupol is under continuous shelling from the artillery and bombing. Each hour, each minute, each second,’ he added.

Mariupol, which has been under blockage for eight days, is one of the Ukrainian cities worst hit since the invasion began, with Russian forces bringing widespread destruction to residential and administrative centres.

Speaking about the devastation across the city, Orlov said Russian forces had destroyed their biggest steel planter as he warned that the situation is ‘unmanageable’.

He praised the bravery of the Ukrainian army, but warned that it is the humanitarian crisis is also worsening, adding: ‘We are not able to protect our lives.’

President Volodymyr Zelensky yesterday warned that the port city was running dangerously low on food, water and medicine.

Ukrainian territorial defence forces have been able to deliver vital supplies to some residents, but many more remain isolated and unable to access lifesaving rations.

Reiterating Zelensky’s stark warning, Orlov said there is no more electricity, heating, gas or water supplies in Mariupol, adding that residents have had to resort to collecting wood to make fires for warmth and using melted snow as drinking water.

‘It’s an awful situation and I cannot imagine in my mind that it’s possible in the 21st century, but it is true,’ he said.

When asked how long the city might be able to continue under siege, Orlov admitted he ‘didn’t know’ as he claimed there are at least 3,000 infants who are currently without food.

American talk show host Berman also asked the deputy mayor whether his own family are safe, after he previously spoken about being unable to reach his parents.

In response, a devastated Orlov said the district where his parents lived has been completely destroyed, saying it ‘does not exist anymore’, as he admitted he doesn’t know if they are alive.

He added: ‘The district where they live is flattened and I’m not sure that I can see them anymore. But I hope and pray they are alive.’

Ukrainian commanders said today that Russia’s attack on the country has ‘slowed significantly’ with no major gains in any sector while its forces were  bolstering defenses in key cities and ‘holding the line.’

In the northern city of Chernihiv, Russian forces are placing military equipment among residential buildings and on farms, the Ukrainian general staff said. And in the south, it said Russians dressed in civilian clothes are advancing on the city of Mykolaiv. It did not provide any details of new fighting.

In Kyiv, back-to-back air alerts Wednesday morning urged residents to get to bomb shelters as quickly as possible over fears of incoming Russian missiles. Soon after an all-clear was given for the first alert, a second alert followed.

Such alerts are common, though irregular, keeping people on edge. Kyiv has been relatively quiet in recent days, though Russian artillery has pounded the outskirts.

Kyiv regional administration head Oleksiy Kuleba said the crisis for civilians was growing in the capital, with the situation particularly critical in the city’s suburbs.

‘Russia is artificially creating a humanitarian crisis in the Kyiv region, frustrating the evacuation of people and continuing shelling and bombing small communities,’ he said.  

Meanwhile, Boris Johnson continued to resist calls to drop visa requirements for Ukrainians fleeing the violence, insisting the security checks were vital to prevent President Putin infiltrating agents into the UK.

The Prime Minister said a thousand visas had been granted under the scheme allowing relatives of people in Britain to flee the war zone to join their families and he promised another programme allowing individuals to offer a home to Ukrainians would be set out in ‘the next few days’.

More than 2 million people have now fled Ukraine, according to the United Nations.

‘We know how unscrupulous Putin can be in his methods, it would not be right to expose this country to unnecessary security risk and we will not do it,’ he said.

‘We are going to be as generous as we can possibly be, but we must have checks.’

His comments in the Commons followed a call from Ukraine’s ambassador to the UK to temporarily drop the visa requirement.

Vadym Prystaiko hit out at the bureaucracy of the British system, telling MPs: ‘I don’t want to see these pictures of people banging at the doors in Calais and scratching the doors which are quite sealed.’

Buses transport people out of the city of Sumy, in Ukraine’s north east, in the first successful evacuation of a besieged city which took place on Tuesday. In total, 5,000 people were transported out 

Russia said the evacuation route out of Sumy will be reopened Wednesday to allow more people to flee, though there are fears it could be a pre-cursor to heavier shelling in the coming days

A large number of foreign students – including hundreds from India and east Asia – were among those allowed to flee from Sumy on Tuesday, with more transports planned for today

Two convoys of civilian vehicles were allowed to leave Sumy on Tuesday, the mayor has said, marking the first successful evacuation after other routes came under attack by Russia

Debris is seen next to houses destroyed by shelling, amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, in Sumy

Debris and houses destroyed by shelling, amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, are seen in Sumy

Houses damaged by shelling, amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, are seen in Sumy

Houses destroyed by shelling, amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, are seen in Sumy

Debris is seen next to houses destroyed by shelling, amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, in Sumy

Natasha Sivek carries her two-month-old grandson Meron shortly after she and other family members, including her daughter, walked into Poland

Women and children arrive from war-torn Ukraine on a snowy day at the Medyka border crossing 

Over one million people have arrived in Poland from Ukraine since the Russian invasion and some are journeying on to other countries in Europe

Most of those fleeing the war have entered countries on Ukraine’s western border, like Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, Romania and Moldova

The majority have gone into Poland, where 1.33 million refugees have crossed according to the Polish Border Guard agency

Yulia Sivek carries her two-month-old son Meron and is trailed by her mother Natasha as they walk into Poland

Oxana Opalenko holds her friend Yulia’s two-month-old son Meron shortly after they walked into Poland

It came as Russia warned the West that it is working on a broad response to sanctions that would be swift and felt in the West’s most sensitive areas, after the US announced a ban on gas and oil imports – with the UK also banning Russian oil and the EU presenting a plan to wean itself off Russian gas by 2030.

‘Russia’s reaction will be swift, thoughtful and sensitive for those it addresses,’ Dmitry Birichevsky, the director of the foreign ministry’s department for economic cooperation, was quoted as saying by the RIA news agency.

Meanwhile China, which has been attempting to pacify both sides in the conflict, warned that moves by ‘US-led NATO’ have pushed Russia-Ukraine tensions to ‘breaking point’. 

As Moscow’s forces have laid siege to Ukrainian cities, the fighting has thwarted attempts to create corridors to safely evacuate civilians.

One evacuation did appear successful, with Ukrainian authorities saying Tuesday that 5,000 civilians, including 1,700 foreign students, had been brought out via a safe corridor from Sumy, an embattled northeastern city of a quarter-million people.

That corridor was to reopen for 12 hours on Wednesday, with the buses that brought people southwest to the city of Poltava the day before returning to pick up more refugees, regional administration chief Dmytro Zhyvytskyy said.

Priority was being given to pregnant women, women with children, the elderly and the disabled.

In the south, Russian troops have advanced deep along Ukraine’s coastline in what could establish a land bridge to Crimea, which Moscow seized from Ukraine in 2014.

The city of Mariupol has been surrounded by Russian soldiers for days and a humanitarian crisis is unfolding in the encircled city of 430,000.

Corpses lie in the streets of the city, which sits on the Asov Sea. Hungry people break into stores in search of food and melt snow for water. Thousands huddle in basements, trembling at the sound of Russian shells pounding this strategic port city.

‘Why shouldn’t I cry?’ Goma Janna demanded as she wept by the light of an oil lamp below ground, surrounded by women and children. ‘I want my home, I want my job. I’m so sad about people and about the city, the children.’

Tuesday brought no relief: An attempt to evacuate civilians and deliver badly needed food, water and medicine through a designated safe corridor failed, with Ukrainian officials saying Russian forces had fired on the convoy before it reached the city.

Mariupol, said Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk, is in a ‘catastrophic situation.’

Natalia Mudrenko, the highest-ranking woman at Ukraine’s U.N. Mission, told the Security Council that the people of Mariupol have ‘been effectively taken hostage,’ by the siege. Her voice shook with emotion as she described how a 6-year-old died shortly after her mother was killed by Russian shelling. ‘She was alone in the last moments of her life,’ she said.

Authorities in Mariupol planned to start digging mass graves for all the dead. The shelling has shattered buildings, and the city has no water, heat, working sewage systems or phone service.

Theft has become widespread for food, clothes, even furniture, with locals referring to the practice as ‘getting a discount.’ Some residents are reduced to scooping water from streams.

With the electricity out, many people are relying on their car radios for information, picking up news from stations broadcast from areas controlled by Russian forces or Russian-backed separatists.

People evacuate Romanivka as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine continues today and millions of civilians desperately try to flee to safety

A member of the military holds a young child’s hands as civilians flee the country after two weeks of sustained attacks from Russia

Many fleeing have no contacts and nowhere to go, as host countries scramble to accommodate them

Children represent around half of the more than two million people that have fled the war since the invasion was launched

People walk at the site of a destruction, amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, in Romanivka, Ukraine today

So far, most refugees have gone to relatives, friends or contacts in the Ukrainian diaspora rather than to reception centres being set up by authorities

A person lies on a stretcher while another is wheeled towards an ambulance in the distressing scenes from Ukraine

The UNHCR is planning a cash programme for refugees that could help them pay rent in private accommodation

Olya and her granddaughter Polina, from Kiev, Ukraine, stand by a tent as Ukrainian refugees cross the border

Polish soldiers hold Ukrainian refugees after they crossed the border during snowfall to Medyka, Poland

Ukrainian refugees wait to board buses in Poland. Travelling by train remains free for Ukrainian refugees

Ludmila Amelkina, who was walking along an alley strewn with rubble and walls pocked by gunfire, said the destruction had been devastating.

‘We don’t have electricity, we don’t have anything to eat, we don’t have medicine. We’ve got nothing,’ she said, looking skyward.

The deputy mayor of Mariupol cast doubt on the evacuations, telling the BBC that Russian forces continued to pound areas where people were trying to gather ahead of being taken out. He said some roads were blocked, while others were mined.

‘So we cannot establish sustainable ceasefire and safety route at the moment,’ Serhiy Orlov said. ‘So we still have… a city in blockade.’

The city is without water, heat, working sewage systems or phone service. Residents have been getting water from streams or by melting snow.

Corpses lay in the streets and authorities planned to start digging mass graves.

With the electricity out, many people are relying on car radios for information, picking up news from stations broadcast from areas controlled by Russian forces or Russian-backed separatists.

The fighting has caused global economic turmoil, with energy prices surging worldwide and stocks plummeting. It also threatens the food supply of millions around the globe who rely on crops farmed in the Black Sea region.

Western countries have rushed weapons to Ukraine and moved to slap Vladimir Putin’s Russia with sanctions.

In a further effort to punish Russia, US President Joe Biden announced a ban on Russian oil imports, and Shell announced it will stop buying oil and gas from Russia.

Ukraine’s military said its forces continued defence operations in the Mariupol suburbs.

The military said ‘demoralised’ Russian forces were looting, commandeering civilian buildings and setting up firing positions in populated areas.

The battle for Mariupol is crucial because its capture could allow Moscow to establish a land corridor to Crimea, which Russia seized from Ukraine in 2014.

Late on Tuesday, Mr Zelensky released a video showing him standing near the presidential offices in Kyiv. Behind him were piles of sandbags, a snow-dusted tree and a few cars.

It was the second video in 24 hours showing him near the country’s seat of power, apparently made to dispel any doubts about whether he had fled the city.

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A Russian tank with overhead armour meant to protect against American-made javelin missiles is pictured burned-out by the side of a road in Ukraine, after the makeshift protection apparently failed

Ukrainian military and civilians inspect a tank abandoned by the side of a road, as Russian continues to suffer losses

A burned-out supply truck is seen amidst the ruins of other vehicles on a road in Ukraine

A destroyed Russian supply truck burns next to an abandoned vehicle, along a highway somewhere in Ukraine

The ruins of a Russian vehicle are seen on fire after it was destroyed by Ukraine’s military

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