Mariupol, Ukraine (AFP) – A pregnant woman and her baby were killed after Russia bombed the maternity hospital where she was supposed to give birth, the Associated Press has learned. Images of a woman being transported into an ambulance on a stretcher flew around the world, capturing the horror of the attack on the most innocent human being.
Video and photos It was shot by Associated Press reporters Wednesday After the hospital attack, the woman was seen striking her bloodied stomach as rescuers rush her through the rubble in the besieged city of Mariupol, her bleached face reflecting her shock at what had just happened. It was among the most brutal moments yet in Russia’s 19-day war on Ukraine.
The woman was taken to another hospital, but closer to the front line, where doctors worked to keep her alive. The medics, after realizing that she was losing her baby, said to them, “Kill me now!”
Surgeon Timur Marin found that the woman’s pelvis was fractured and her hip separated. The surgeon said medics delivered the baby by caesarean section, but that it “didn’t show any signs of life”.
Then they focused on the mother.
“More than 30 minutes of maternal resuscitation yielded no results,” Marin said on Saturday.
“They both died.”
Amid the chaos that followed Wednesday’s air strike, paramedics did not have time to get the woman’s name before her husband and father came to extract her body. They said that at least someone came to retrieve it – so it did not end up in the mass graves that had been dug for many of the dead in Mariupol.
Russian officials, accused of war crimes, claimed that the maternity hospital had been taken over by Ukrainian extremists to use as a base, and that no patients or medics were left inside. Russia’s ambassador to the United Nations and the Russian embassy in London described the photos as “fake news”.
Associated Press journalists, who have been writing from inside besieged Mariupol since the start of the war, documented the attack and saw the casualties and damage firsthand. They filmed videos and photos of several bloodied pregnant mothers fleeing the destroyed maternity ward, paramedics screaming, babies crying.
Then the AP team tracked the victims on Friday and Saturday at the hospital where they were taken, on the outskirts of Mariupol.
In a city that has been without a food supply, water, electricity or heating for more than a week, electricity from emergency generators is reserved for operating rooms.
As survivors described their ordeal, explosions outside shook the walls. The bombing and shooting in the area are intermittent, but relentless. Emotions run high, even as doctors and nurses focus on their work.
Blogger Marianna Vyshgerskaya gave birth to a girl the day after the air strike, and wrapped her arm around newborn Veronica as she recounted Wednesday’s bombing. After photos and videos that showed her walking down stairs strewn with debris and holding a blanket around her pregnant body, Russian officials claimed she was represented in an organized attack.
It happened on March 9 in Hospital No. 3 in Mariupol. We were sitting in the wards when glass, frames, windows and walls flew off,” Vishgerskaya, who was still wearing the same polka-dotted pajamas she was wearing when she ran away, told the AP.
We don’t know how it happened. We were in our wards and some had time to cover themselves, some didn’t.”
Her ordeal was one of many in Mariupol, which has become a symbol of resistance to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s campaign to crush democratic Ukraine and redraw the map of the world in his favour. The failure to subdue Mariupol prompted Russian forces to expand their offensive elsewhere in Ukraine.
Meanwhile, the coastal city of Azov of 430,000 people, which is key to creating a land bridge from Russia to Russia-annexed Crimea, is slowly starving.
In the makeshift new maternity ward, each approaching birth brings a new tension.
“All mothers have experienced a lot during childbirth,” said nurse Olga Vereshagina.
One stunned mother lost some of her toes in the bombing. Paramedics performed a cesarean delivery on Friday, carefully pulling on her daughter and rubbing the newborn vigorously to stimulate signs of life.
After a few seconds of shortness of breath, the baby cries.
Cheers of joy reverberated throughout the room. The newborn baby is crying, her mother is crying, and the medical workers are wiping tears from their eyes.
Follow the Associated Press’ coverage of the Ukraine crisis at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine
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