The Russian military took more than 400 people hostage in a large hospital in besieged Mariupol. Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk reported that local residents were trapped in the hospital, which came under artillery fire on March 15.
Tetyana Ignatchenko, press secretary of the Donetsk regional state administration, confirmed the information about the hostages to The Insider. According to her, a doctor at the regional intensive care hospital sent her the following message: «The Russians are rounding up people, they won't let us out, we can't come out.» «The man started sounding the alarm. Unfortunately, I had no further contact with that person, I don't know if they got out or not. There is no contact with the people who stayed in the hospital,» Ignatchenko explained.
Also, according to her information, the Russian military entered the military hospital as well. «What is happening to the patients there is unknown. A man just shouted «Russians» and the call cut off,» the spokeswoman said.
She noted that only «two and a half working hospitals» remain in Mariupol now. «These are the institutions that survived at least partially. The RICH (regional intensive care hospital) is a new hospital, it was just recently built. All the floor slabs there were destroyed during the attack, but it continued to admit the wounded. People came down... well, not to the basement, rather to the ground floor. They conducted examinations there, CT scans, ultrasounds and so on,» Ignatchenko said.
The RICH hostage-taking operation took place several hours prior to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky's speech to the US Congress. Earlier, the US Congress, together with Zelensky, had asked the Biden administration to hand over Soviet-made heavy weapons to Ukraine.
«In Mariupol, the invaders seized the regional intensive care hospital, already damaged by Russian bombs. Patients and doctors are being held captive. More residents from neighboring houses were forced inside. More than 400 people are being held hostage. And the occupants use this hospital as a firing position to bombard the city.
This crime committed by the Russian military against Mariupol is no different from Basayev's seizure of the hospital in Budyonnovsk. Yet it is different. It is even more despicable. Last night the invaders took six people hostage in the Bucha city council building. They are now holding captive a Ukrainian relief worker who had been captured in the agreed-upon humanitarian corridor. The mayors of several of our cities, activists, and journalists are being held hostage. The Russian state has become outright terroristic,» - said Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky.
Mariupol, a key port city on the Black Sea coast, has been surrounded by Russian troops for more than two weeks, and residents are denied access to food, water and electricity. Shelling and bombing continues in the city. According to the local authorities, 2,187 people have been killed in the city since the war began, and Russian troops are «deliberately hitting» civilian targets. The Russian Defense Ministry claims it only targets military infrastructure.
Since Russia and Ukraine agreed on a humanitarian corridor from Mariupol to evacuate residents, evacuations have been repeatedly disrupted because the Russian side has not adhered to the promised «silence regime». As of March 15, according to Tatyana Ignatchenko, about 4,000 vehicles left Mariupol.
Meanwhile, buses to evacuate people from the city and trucks with food and medical supplies are still blocked by Russian troops. The trucks and buses are stuck in Berdyansk, which is controlled by Russian forces. «We don't know what's going on. They haven't given us any chance to move. They're just blocking it,» Peter Andryushchenko, adviser to the mayor of Mariupol, told the BBC.
On March 9, the Ukrainian authorities reported an attack on the maternity ward of Hospital No. 3 in Mariupol. Initially, Kiev reported that three people, including a child, were killed and 17 others were injured as a result of the shelling. Later it was reported that a pregnant woman and her child were killed. Russian media and the Ministry of Defense said that reports of the attach on the hospital were «fake» and constituted an «informational provocation by the Kiev regime».