A pregnant woman and her baby were killed after Russia bombed the maternity hospital where she was due to give birth, The Associated Press has learned. Images of the woman being transferred to an ambulance on a stretcher had gone around the world, epitomizing the horror of an attack on the most innocent of humanity.
In videos and photos taken Wednesday by AP journalists after the hospital attack, the woman is seen stroking her bloodied lower abdomen as rescuers carried her through the rubble in the defeated city of Mariupol, her pale face reflecting her shock at what had just happened. . It was one of the most brutal moments so far in Russia’s war against Ukraine, which is now 19 days old.
The woman was rushed to another hospital, even closer to the front line, where doctors worked to keep her alive. Realizing she was losing her baby, doctors said, she yelled at them: “Kill me now!”
Surgeon Timur Marin found the woman’s pelvis crushed and her hip severed. Doctors delivered the baby by caesarean section, but “he showed no signs of life,” the surgeon said.
Then they focused on the mother.
“More than 30 minutes of resuscitation of the mother produced no results,” Marin said Saturday.
They both died.
In the chaos that followed Wednesday’s airstrike, doctors had no time to get the woman’s name before her husband and father came to remove her body. At least someone came to retrieve her, they said, so she wouldn’t end up in the mass graves being dug for many of Mariupol’s growing dead.
Accused of war crimes, Russian officials claimed that Ukrainian extremists had taken over the maternity hospital to use as a base, and that there were no patients or doctors left inside. Russia’s ambassador to the UN and the Russian embassy in London called the footage “fake news.”
Associated Press journalists, who have been reporting from inside the blockade of Mariupol since the beginning of the war, documented the attack and saw the victims and damage firsthand. They recorded videos and photos of several bloodstained pregnant mothers fleeing the blown up maternity ward, doctors screaming, children crying.
The AP team then located the victims on Friday and Saturday at the hospital they had been taken to, outside Mariupol.
In a city that has been without food, water, electricity or heat for more than a week, electricity from emergency generators is reserved for operating rooms.
As the survivors described their ordeal, explosions outside shook the walls. The shelling and shooting in the area is sporadic but relentless. Emotions run high, even as the doctors and nurses concentrate on their work.
Blogger Mariana Vishegirskaya gave birth to a baby girl the day after the airstrike and put her arm around newborn Veronika as she recounted Wednesday’s attack. After photos and video of her showing her walking down rubble-strewn stairs and clutching a blanket around her pregnant body, Russian authorities claimed she was an actress in a staged attack.
“It happened on March 9 at Hospital No. 3 in Mariupol. We were lying in the wards when the glass, the frames, the windows and the walls collapsed,” she told the AP Vishegirskaya, who was still wearing the same polka-dot pajamas she had on when she fled.
“We don’t know how it happened. We were in our rooms and some had time to cover up, some didn’t.”
His ordeal was one of many in Mariupol, which has become a symbol of resistance to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s push to crush democratic Ukraine and reshape the world map in his favor. The failure to subordinate Mariupol has pushed Russian forces to expand their offensive in other parts of Ukraine.
Meanwhile, the Azov Sea port city of 430,000, key to creating a land bridge between Russia and Russia-annexed Crimea, is slowly starving.
In the new makeshift maternity ward, each approaching delivery brings new tension.
“All mothers who give birth have lived a long time,” said nurse Olga Vereshagina.
One of the disturbed mothers lost some toes in the bombing. Doctors performed a C-section on Friday, carefully removing her daughter from her and vigorously rubbing the newborn to stimulate signs of life.
After a few seconds of breathlessness, the baby cries.
Cheers of joy echo through the room. Newborn Alana cries, her mother cries, and medical workers wipe tears from their eyes.
Follow AP coverage of the Ukraine crisis at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine