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Russian missile hits Ukraine children's hospital as Biden welcomes NATO leaders

WASHINGTON − Russian missiles hit targets across Ukraine − including a children's hospital − killing 36 civilians in a daylight attack as President Joe Biden prepared to welcome NATO leaders to a summit aimed as shoring up the beleagured nation more than 800 days into Moscow's invasion.

Monday's barrage was the deadliest air strike in months, officials said, and a pointed message to the Western military alliance.

“They are not collateral damage. They are not the victims of mishap or a misfire," Ruslan Stefanchuk, speaker of Ukraine's parliament told 鶹ý. "That was a premeditated and targeted attack on the children's hospital.”

“And this attack can be seen as a kind of challenge that Russia is throwing to the rest of the civilized world.”

The NATO summit, starting Tuesday, is a key test for member states who want to help Ukraine turn back recent Russian advances, and for Biden, who is under pressure to withdraw from the presidential race after a dismal June 27 debate against NATO skeptic Donald Trump.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is attending the summit to lobby for increased aid and eventual NATO membership.

More:His reelection campaign in crisis, Joe Biden hosts high-stakes NATO Summit in Washington

July 8, 2024: Rescuers clear the rubble of the destroyed Ohmatdyt Children's Hospital following a missile attack in Kyiv. Russia launched more than 40 missiles at several cities across Ukraine in an attack that killed at least 20 people and smashed into a children's hospital in Kyiv, officials said.

In Kyiv, hundreds of residents rushed to clear debris from the Ohmatdyt Children’s Hospital, where they stood the rubble passing chunks of broken concrete from hand to hand. Parents holding infants walked in the street outside, dazed and sobbing after the rare daylight aerial assault.

"It was scary. I couldn't breathe, I was trying to cover (my baby). I was trying to cover him with this cloth so that he could breathe," Svitlana Kravchenko, 33, told Reuters.

Zelenskyy said Russia fired more than 40 missiles, damaging residential and commercial buildings and infrastructure in Kyiv, at his home city of Kryvyi Rih, the central city of Dnipro and two eastern cities.

An online video obtained by Reuters showed a missile falling from the sky towards the children's hospital followed by a large explosion. The location of the video was verified from visible landmarks.

The Security Service of Ukraine identified the missile as an Kh-101 cruise missile.

Twenty-three people, including two children, were killed in Kyiv and 82 more were wounded in the main missile volley and another strike that came two hours later, officials said. A maternity hospital was also struck.

“They demonstrated the language of force," Stefanchuk said. "That's the only language that they understand. But this also means that such kind of message also must be replied with the language of force because that's the only language that Russia understands. And all civilized countries of the world must demonstrate the response to this blatant attack and to this challenge with force.”

Eleven were confirmed dead in Kryvyi Rih and over 40 wounded, the emergency services said. Three people had been killed in the eastern town of Pokrovsk where missiles hit an industrial facility, the regional governor said. One person was also killed in the city of Dnipro, officials said.

"The whole world must act as decisively as it can to put an end to Russian air strikes. Murder − this is what Putin brings. Only together we can achieve true peace and security," Zelenskyy wrote on Telegram.

The Russian Defence Ministry said its forces had carried out strikes on defence industry targets and aviation bases in Ukraine.

Moscow has repeatedly denied targeting civilians and civilian infrastructure, although its attacks have killed thousands of civilians since it launched its full-scale invasion in February 2022.

The missile that struck the children's hospital "wasn't off course," Stefanchuk said. “It was hitting what it was supposed to hit.”

"This callous aggression − a total disregard for human life, jeopardizing European & Transatlantic security - is why leaders will make significant security commitments to Ukraine this week," the U.S. ambassador to Kyiv, Bridget Brink, posted on X.

Ukraine's plea for air defense

Ukrainian Defense Minister Rustem Umerov said Ukraine still lacked enough air defences and urged Kyiv's allies to supply more systems promptly to help protect its cities and infrastructure from regular Russian aerial attacks.

The power grid has already sustained so much damage from targeted Russian air strikes that began in March that electricity cuts have become widespread and the whirring sound of backup power generators in the streets has become ubiquitous.

DTEK, Ukraine's largest private power producer, said three electricity substations and electricity networks had been damaged in the capital. Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said the attack on the capital was one of the largest of the war.

"We heard an explosion, then we were showered with debris,” Svitlana told Reuters after she and her husband Viktor, emerged from a shelter at the hospital with their two-month-old baby.

The baby was unharmed, but Svitlana had suffered cuts, and their car was totally buried under the rubble of the destroyed building across the courtyard from the main ward.

Contributing: Reuters

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