Russian forces bombed a maternity and children's hospital. Here's what we know about the siege of Mariupol
Harrowing images show a heavily pregnant woman clutching her belongings, her face covered with cuts, as she walks down a bombed-out staircase at a maternity and children's hospital in the city of Mariupol, southern Ukraine. Inside, smashed incubators and bloodied beds lay among the wreckage.
Russian forces bombed the hospital Wednesday, Mariupol officials said — an attack described by Ukraine's President as an “atrocity" and "proof of a genocide."
Here's what we know:
Mariupol city council accused Russia of dropping several bombs on the hospital from the air, destroying the medical facility building where children were recently being treated.
The attack came despite Russia agreeing to a 12-hour pause in hostilities to allow refugees to evacuate a number of towns and cities.
Police in the Donetsk region said according to preliminary information at least 17 people were injured, including mothers and staff. Ukraine's President said authorities were sifting through the rubble looking for victims.
A Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman claimed — without providing evidence — that Ukrainian forces had “equipped combat positions” within the hospital. Video from the hospital after the bombing clearly showed there were both patients and staff there, including pregnant women.
The attack received international condemnation, with the UN saying it would follow up “urgently” on the “shocking reports,” and that health care facilities, hospitals and health workers should not “ever, ever be a target.”
Leader's reaction: Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky said the bombing is "proof of a genocide of Ukrainians taking place" and repeated his call for NATO to declare a no-fly zone over Ukraine.
"Children's hospital? Maternity ward? Why were they a threat to Russian Federation? What kind of country is the Russian Federation that is afraid of hospitals, afraid of maternity wards and destroys them?" he asked.
More bombings: A city administration building and a university in Mariupol, less than a kilometer from the bombed-out hospital, has been identified by CNN as a second location in the city hit by an apparent Russian military strike.
Evacuation corridor: The attacks came as humanitarian corridors were set up around Ukraine to evacuate civilians to safety. It is unclear if any people made it out of Mariupol, which has been has been under siege for days and isolated by Russian forces.
"Desperate situation": About 1,300 civilians have been killed in Mariupol since the Russian invasion began, two officials in the city said. Residents have been cut off from water and electricity for days, and on Tuesday Ukraine's Foreign Minister accused Russia of committing war crimes by holding 300,000 civilians “hostage.” Photos show bodies being placed into a mass grave in the city.
Destruction of city: New satellite images Wednesday from Maxar Technologies show homes, buildings, grocery stores and shopping malls across Mariupol damaged or destroyed in the fighting.
10:26 p.m. ET, March 9, 2022
US House passes government funding bill with $13.6 billion in Ukraine aid
From CNN's Annie Grayer, Clare Foran and Kristin Wilson
The US House of Representatives voted late Wednesday night to pass a massive government funding bill that includes $13.6 billion in desperately needed aid for Ukraine as the country fights back against Russia’s deadly invasion.
Congress is racing against the clock ahead of a Friday deadline when government funding is set to expire — but a shutdown is not expected.
That's in part because many lawmakers are anxious to demonstrate support for Ukraine amid Russia's unprovoked assault on the country.
As part of the effort to prevent a shutdown, the House also passed a stopgap bill to extend government funding through Tuesday.
9:46 p.m. ET, March 9, 2022
First lady Jill Biden to US military families: "History is being written in front of us"
From CNN's Kate Bennett
Speaking to US military families at Fort Campbell in Kentucky Wednesday, first lady Jill Biden addressed the Russian invasion of Ukraine, saying the US administration would hold Russian President Vladimir Putin accountable for his actions in the country.
“There are moments when we suddenly realize that history is being written in front of us — when we can almost feel ourselves cross the line that will divide our world into 'before' and 'after,'" Biden said. “This is one of those moments. It’s tough to watch the news, isn’t it?”
Many of the relatives present had a family member deployed with the 101st Airborne, aka the Screaming Eagles, to assist American allies in Europe.
Addressing them directly, Biden said, “The Screaming Eagles are there in Europe, standing with our allies and welcoming Ukrainian refugees.”
She echoed the US administration’s position on the Russian invasion, saying, “We are holding Putin accountable for his war through diplomacy with crippling sanctions. We are providing Ukraine with economic, humanitarian, and security assistance.”
10:30 p.m. ET, March 9, 2022
Chernobyl nuclear plant has been disconnected from the power grid. Here's what we know
Ukraine's Chernobyl nuclear plant has been disconnected from the electricity grid and lost its supply of external power, Ukraine’s energy operator Ukrenergo and state-run nuclear company Energoatom said Wednesday.
What happens if Chernobyl loses power?: The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said it had been told by Ukraine that Chernobyl had lost power, but that it saw “no critical impact” on the plant’s safety.
"Specifically, regarding the site’s spent fuel storage facility, the volume of cooling water in the pool is sufficient to maintain effective heat removal from the spent fuel without a supply of electricity. The site also has reserve emergency power supplies with diesel generators and batteries," IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi said in a statement.
Is Chernobyl still active? The Chernobyl site is not currently operational and handling of nuclear material has been halted, the IAEA said, citing information from Ukraine’s nuclear regulator. The facility holds decommissioned reactors as well as radioactive waste facilities.
However, the lack of power "is likely to lead to a further deterioration of operational radiation safety at the site," Grossi said.
Chernobyl radiation leak warning: Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba and the country's security and intelligence service warned of a possible radiation leak after the plant was disconnected.
“Reserve diesel generators have a 48-hour capacity to power the Chornobyl NPP. After that, cooling systems of the storage facility for spent nuclear fuel will stop, making radiation leaks imminent,” Kuleba said in a tweet Wednesday.
Ukraine’s technical security and intelligence service echoed Kuleba’s concerns, warning that “all nuclear facilities” in the Chernobyl exclusion zone were without power, and that if the pumps could not be cooled, a “nuclear discharge” could occur.
Neither Kuleba nor the intelligence service commented on whether the diesel generators could be sustained beyond the 48-hour period.
Lines down: On Tuesday, the IAEA said it had lost contact with remote data transmission from safeguard monitoring systems at Chernobyl.
Staff pushed to the limit: The loss of power at Chernobyl has raised further concerns for some 210 personnel that have been working for two weeks straight at the site since Russian forces seized control of the facility. Grossi said they have been effectively living there, working around the clock and unable to rotate shifts.
“From day to day, we are seeing a worsening situation at the Chornobyl NPP, especially for radiation safety, and for the staff managing the facility under extremely difficult and challenging circumstances,” Grossi said. “I repeat my urgent appeal to the forces in effective control of the plant to respect internal radiation protection procedures, to facilitate the safe rotation of staff and to take other important steps to ensure safety.”
Eight of Ukraine’s 15 nuclear reactors are currently operating, including two at Europe’s largest nuclear power plant in Zaporizhzhya — which is also now under Russian control — and that radiation levels still appear normal, Ukraine’s nuclear regulator told IAEA.
9:01 p.m. ET, March 9, 2022
Top US general in Europe says anti-tank, anti-aircraft weapons most effective for Ukraine — not MiG-29s
From CNN's Oren Liebermann
The most effective way to support the Ukrainian military is with additional anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons — not MiG-29 fighter jets, according to America's top general in Europe.
Echoing an earlier statement from Pentagon press secretary John Kirby, the commander of US European Command Gen. Tod Wolters said the Ukrainians were “making excellent use of these weapons now,” limiting the ability of Russian military aircraft to operate freely.
Wolters added that Ukraine already has “numerous” aircraft flying daily, and that adding more would not give the Ukrainian Air Force a relative advantage.
“Therefore, we assess that the overall gain is low,” he said.
Any transfer of MiG-29s also risks escalating the conflict, he said.
Some context: On Tuesday, the Pentagon dismissed Poland's proposal to transfer its MiG-29 fighter jets to the US for delivery to Ukraine, calling it not "tenable."
Kirby said Wednesday the US intelligence community believes transferring MiG-29s to Ukraine now could be seen by Russian President Vladimir Putin as an “escalatory step” that "could result in significant Russian reaction that might increase the prospects of a military escalation with NATO."
8:40 p.m. ET, March 9, 2022
Nearly 35,000 people rescued through humanitarian corridors, Zelensky says
From CNN's Mariya Knight and Hira Humayun
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said “all in all almost 35,000 people were rescued” via the humanitarian corridors established Wednesday.
“Today we were able to organize three humanitarian corridors: from the city of Sumy, from city of Kyiv and Kyiv region, and from Enerhodar,” he said, adding that efforts will continue Thursday.
Zelensky said Ukrainian authorities were preparing six humanitarian corridors to get people out of areas under attack by Russian forces.
“We are praying to be able to evacuate people from Mariupol, from Izium, from Volnovakha, etc. to evacuate to safe places of free Ukraine. And I'm sure that every Ukrainian that knows these people need help will make sure these people feel cared for," he said.
While some routes were successful in evacuating people to safety, others had to be abandoned.
What happened: Local authorities in areas close to Kyiv that have been under attack for more than a week said efforts to evacuate people to safety Wednesday failed. The city council of Bucha said 50 buses had been blocked by the Russian military in nearby Stoyanka.
9:26 p.m. ET, March 9, 2022
Woman killed along with children in weekend’s Russian shelling had ties to global tech company
From CNN’s Abby Baggini
Tatiana Perebeinis and her two children — Alise, 9, and Nikita, 18 — were killed on Sunday by Russian shelling as the family tried to evacuate Irpin, Ukraine, according to a statement from her employer, SE Ranking.
Another unidentified man, thought to have been a family friend, also died from the blast.
Perebeinis, 43, served as SE Ranking's chief accountant. The Bay Area tech company issued a statement on Monday confirming the deaths.
"There are no words to describe our grief or to mend our pain. But for us, it is crucial to not let Tania and her kids Alise and Nikita remain just statistics. Her family became the victim of the unprovoked fire on civilians, which under any law is a crime against humanity," the company said in the statement.
Ksenia Khirvonina, a PR manager for SE Ranking, said Perebeinis was originally from Donetsk and fled to Kyiv in 2014 following the city's occupation. Tatiana, her children, and her husband had been living in an apartment in the northern city of Irpin, just outside Kyiv, since 2018.
Though much of Irpin had been left without water supply, electricity, and heating, Perebeinis was hesitant to leave the city because she had been taking care of her sick mother. One day before they fled, the apartments above their home were bombed, forcing them to take shelter in the basement of their building, where they remained until Sunday, according to Khirvonina.
"Even from there, she was telling us everything's okay, was cheering everyone around her, and texting my colleagues that everything's gonna be okay," Khirvonina said.
According to Khirvonina, Perebeinis had wanted to leave on Saturday, but ultimately decided to wait to leave through the "green corridor" with other civilians.
Ukrainian photojournalist Andriy Dubchak captured the moment the family was struck by a mortar shell in a graphic video published by the New York Times.
"The Russian army are criminals, and they should be stopped. Our hearts are broken. Our prayers are for all Ukrainians, who are fighting for their right to exist," the company said.
Perebeinis was taken to a nearby hospital, where she later passed. Nikita, a university student, and Alise were killed immediately. The man with them also survived the initial blast but later died, according to the New York Times.
Previous media reports had mistakenly identified the man as the father of the children. Perebeinis' husband — with whom SE Ranking has been in touch — was not fleeing Irpin with the family and was in a different city at the time of their deaths.
Khirvonina said she did not know where Perebeinis and the children were planning on fleeing to, but that it likely would have been a western Ukrainian city. Ukrainian men over the age of 18 are banned from leaving the country, and Perebeinis had refused to leave her son Nikita.
"My overall impression was that they had a great family, they were united," Khirvonina said. "Tatiana herself was very kind, very supportive person, you could always come to her to ask for advice for work advice or life advice, it didn't matter. She always cheered everyone around her up or with her stories and with her jokes. She was truly a great person."
SE Ranking, which specializes in search engine optimization (SEO), has a global presence, including in San Francisco; London; Minsk, Belarus; Kyiv and Moscow.
Hear from the photojournalist who captured the moment:
7:31 p.m. ET, March 9, 2022
A Ukrainian photographer is using TikTok to turn war zone destruction into art
From CNN's Shelby Rose
Sirens blare in the distance. Everywhere she looks, there’s devastation. Windows are cracked and pieces of wood and building debris lie scattered in the streets. The streets are eerily empty.
This is the scene that Ukrainian photographer Valeria Shashenok witnesses every day when she walks down the street in war-torn Chernihiv, Ukraine. Shashenok is taking shelter in an underground bunker with her mother, father and dog “Tory” in the northern Ukrainian city. Her close friends have already fled.
But instead of wallowing in the destruction around her, Shashenok has turned the war into art.
Shashenok is using TikTok to document her daily life. Her videos have gone viral, some getting millions of views.
In another video, Shashenok stands before a pile of rubble. The caption says, “Today Putin destroyed one of the old building(s) in my city. It was a cinema that survived World War II.” Then she shows large windows nearby, the glass shattered on the ground. “Windows flew out from the force of impact in neighboring houses too.”
You can see more of Shashenok's videos and read more of her story here.