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A pregnant woman and her baby have died after Russian forces bombed the maternity hospital in Mariupol where she had planned to give birth, medics have said.
A photo of her being carried on a stretcher from the bombed hospital in Ukraine last week epitomised the horror of Russia’s war on Ukraine.
In videos take in the aftermath of the bombing, the heavily pregnant woman could be seen stroking her bloodied lower abdomen as rescuers rushed her through the rubble.
Reports of the attack led to Russian accusations of “fake news”, and diplomats accused the Ukrainians of planting actors in the rubble.
The woman was taken to another hospital, closer to the front line, where doctors worked to keep her alive.
Realising she was losing her baby, medics said that she cried out to them: “Kill me now.”
Surgeon Timur Marin found the woman’s pelvis crushed and hip detached. Medics delivered the baby via Caesarean section, but it showed “no signs of life”, the surgeon said. They then began work on the mother.
“More than 30 minutes of resuscitation of the mother didn’t produce results,” Mr Marin said. “Both died.”
In the chaos after Wednesday’s air strike, medics did not have time to get the woman’s name before her husband and father came to take away her body.
Doctors said her family had collected her remains, which meant she would not be buried in one of the mass graves being dug for Mariupol’s growing number of dead.
After being accused of war crimes, Russian officials claimed the maternity hospital had been taken over by Ukrainian extremists to use as a base, and that no patients or medics were left inside.
Russia’s ambassador to the UN and the Russian Embassy in London called the images “fake news”.
Associated Press journalists, who have been reporting from inside blockaded Mariupol since early in the war, documented the attack and saw the victims and damage first-hand.
Mariana Vishegirskaya, a beauty blogger on YouTube, was among the patients caught up in the attack. A photo of her fleeing the bombed building wearing pyjamas, with blood streaming down her face, went viral.
She gave birth to a healthy girl the day after the air strike, whom she named Veronika.
After photos and video showed her navigating down debris-strewn stairs, Russian officials claimed she was an actor in a staged attack.
Speaking to AP, Ms Vishegirskaya, still wearing the polka dot pyjamas from the day of the attack, described how she and other patients had to run for cover.
“It happened on March 9 in Hospital Number Three in Mariupol. We were lying in wards when glasses, frames, windows and walls flew apart,” she said.
“We don’t know how it happened. We were in our wards and some had time to cover themselves, some didn’t.”
Britain’s Health Secretary Sajid Javid batted away the accusations of fake news from the Russians, saying: “The only fake news is everything we hear from Russia.”
Asked if Russia’s attack on the maternity hospital in Mariupol constituted a war crime, he said: “Yes I think it is.”
“It is an appalling atrocity and a war crime because under international law you cannot attack health facilities, hospitals,” he told Sky News.
He pointed to the World Health Organisation’s statement which said it had documented evidence of at least 31 Russian attacks on Ukrainian medical facilities.
British Justice Secretary Dominic Raab will travel to the Hague on Monday “to offer Britain’s help in helping to gather the evidence” of potential war crimes committed in Ukraine, Mr Javid said.
“In fact, the most recent information I have from the World Health Organisation is they now have documented evidence of at least 31 such attacks of health facilities hospitals, including shelling,” he said.
“A couple of days ago of a cancer hospital, as well. So these are war crimes.”