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Pregnant woman and her baby die after Russia bombs maternity hospital


In the chaos after the airstrike, medical workers did not get her name before her husband and father took away her body. Doctors said they were grateful that she didn’t end up in the mass graves being dug for many of Mariupol’s dead.

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Accused of attacking civilians, 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 Unites Nations and the Russian Embassy in London falsely described the AP images as fakes.

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 firsthand. They shot video and photos of several bloodstained, pregnant mothers fleeing the blown-out maternity ward as medical workers shouted and children cried.

The AP team tracked down some of the victims Friday and Saturday after they were transferred to another hospital on the outskirts of Mariupol. The port city on the Sea of Azov has been without supplies of food, water, power or heat for more than a week. Electricity from emergency generators is reserved for operating rooms.

As survivors described their ordeal, explosions shook the walls, causing medical workers to flinch. Shelling and shooting in the area is sporadic but relentless. Emotions ran high, even as doctors and nurses focused on their work.

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Another pregnant woman, Mariana Vishegirskaya, gave birth to a girl on Thursday. She recounted the bombing to the AP as she wrapped her arm around her newborn daughter, Veronika.

After AP photos and video showed her navigating down debris-strewn stairs in her polka-dot pyjamas while clutching a blanket, Russian officials falsely claimed she was an actor in a staged attack.

“It happened on March 9 in Hospital No. 3 in Mariupol. We were lying in wards when glass, frames, windows and walls flew apart,” said Vishegirskaya, who has blogged on social media about fashion and beauty, when she fled.

“We don’t know how it happened. We were in our wards and some had time to cover themselves, some didn’t,” she said.

Her ordeal was one among many in the city of 430,000 people, which has become a symbol of resistance to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine.

The failure to fully capture Mariupol has pushed Russian forces to broaden their offensive elsewhere in Ukraine. The city is a key to creating a land bridge from the Russian border to the Crimean Peninsula, which Moscow annexed from Ukraine in 2014.

In a makeshift new maternity ward in Mariupol, each new birth brings renewed tension.

“All birthing mothers have lived through so much,” said nurse Olga Vereshagina.

A third pregnant woman seen by AP lost some of her toes in the bombing, and medical workers performed a cesarean section on her Friday.

Her baby was rubbed vigorously to stimulate any signs of life. After a few tense moments, the baby began to wail.

Cheers resonated through the room amid the cries of the girl, who was named Alana. Her mother also cried and the medical staff wiped tears from their own eyes.

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