| 20 April 2024, Saturday |

Russian officials shift line on hospital bombing in Ukraine’s Mariupol

Russia’s attitude on the bombing of a Ukrainian hospital in Mariupol evolved on Thursday, with a mix of remarks ranging from harsh denials to a plea for the establishment of concrete facts.

Despite a ceasefire agreement allowing residents to evacuate the besieged city, Ukraine’s president accused Russia of genocide on Wednesday. Officials said Russian planes attacked the hospital, burying patients in ruins.

When pressed for comment in the incident, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told Reuters: “Russian military do not fire on civilian targets.”

He indicated on Thursday that the Kremlin will investigate the matter.

“We will surely question our military,” Peskov told reporters, “since you and I don’t have precise knowledge about what transpired there.” “And it’s extremely probable that the military will release some information.”

On Thursday, some Russian officials adopted a tougher stance, dismissing the hospital explosion as fake news.

“This is information terrorism,” said Maria Zakharova, a spokesperson for the Russian foreign ministry.

Dmitry Polyanskiy, Russia’s first deputy permanent representative to the UN, went even farther, claiming that the facility was a former maternity hospital that had been taken over by Ukrainian forces.

“That’s how fake news starts,” he added, noting that Russia had warned on March 7 that the hospital had been converted into a military target from which Ukrainians were firing.

On Thursday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that a hospital in Mariupol, Ukraine’s southern port city, had been used as a military camp by nationalists.

“The Azov Battalion and other extremists have long held this maternity facility.” They ejected the laboring ladies, nurses, and the rest of the personnel. Following conversations with his Ukrainian colleague in Turkey, Lavrov claimed, “It was the base of the ultra-radical Azov Battalion.”

The remarks’ tone and content were uncommon for Russian authorities, who have maintained tight unity and consistency in their propaganda since the invasion began on February 24.

Moscow claims to be carrying out a specific military operation in Ukraine to demilitarize and “denazify” the country. These are bogus pretexts for an attack of a democratic nation with 44 million people, according to Kyiv and the West.

The US dismissed repeated Russian charges that it was running biowarfare laboratories in Ukraine on Wednesday, calling the assertions “laughable.”

  • Reuters