Ukraine says newborn baby killed in attack near Zaporizhzhia city

The baby’s mother, who was pregnant for the entirety of the Ukraine war, was pulled from the rubble alive.

Ukrainian firefighters work at damaged hospital maternity ward in Vilniansk, Ukraine
In this photo provided by the Zaporizhia region military administration, Ukrainian firefighters work at damaged hospital maternity ward in Vilniansk [Zaporizhzhia region military administration via AP]

An overnight rocket attack struck a hospital maternity ward in southern Ukraine, killing a newborn baby, Ukrainian authorities have said, blaming Russia.

The baby’s mother, who was pregnant the entirety of the war, and a doctor were pulled alive from the rubble, according to Ukraine’s emergency services on Wednesday.

“At night, Russian monsters launched huge rockets at the small maternity ward of the hospital in Vilniansk. Grief overwhelms our hearts – a baby was killed who had just seen the light of day. Rescuers are working at the site,” said the regional governor, Oleksandr Starukh, writing on the Telegram messaging app.

INTERACTIVE-Zaporizhzhia maternity hosptial attack

The alleged Russian raid in Vilniansk, close to the city of Zaporizhzhia, adds to the gruesome toll suffered by hospitals and other medical facilities – and their patients and staff – in Moscow’s invasion.

The latest tragedy evoked memories of a March 9 air attack that destroyed a maternity hospital in the now-occupied port city of Mariupol, in which a pregnant woman and her baby died.

Photos Starukh posted show thick smoke rising above mounds of rubble, being combed by emergency workers against the backdrop of a dark night sky.

The baby, mother and doctor were the only people in the ward at the time.

The emergency services said the two-story building was destroyed.

Andriy Yermak, the head of the Ukrainian presidential office, condemned the attack in a Telegram post.

Referring to Russian forces who invaded Ukraine on February 24 as “terrorists”, he said Russia would be held responsible for “every Ukrainian life”.

The war-torn nation is preparing for one of its toughest winters, as the coldest season begins with Russian attacks taking out critical energy facilities.

Power blackouts are expected to last for months, and threaten to debilitate key services.

“An average of about 900 children a day are being born into a life of uncertainty. The chaos of the war poses a serious threat to these mothers and newborns,” said Sonia Khush, Save the Children’s country director in Ukraine. “We’re hearing accounts of women who’ve gone into labour early because of their constant state of stress and fear.

“At the start of the war, many pregnant women were forced to give birth in basements or bunkers. Now, we’re seeing women give birth in overwhelmed hospitals, away from family members, and in countries hosting refugees from Ukraine. Even though there are fewer women giving birth in bunkers compared to earlier this year, their pregnancies are still just as stressful.”

Vilniansk is in the Ukrainian-held north of the Zaporizhia region, and is about 500 kilometres (300 miles) southeast of Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv.

Other parts of Zaporizhia are Russian-held and it is one of four Ukrainian regions that Russia attempted to formally annexe in September after referendums condemned on the international stage as illegal and meaningless.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies