Russia struck a psychiatric hospital in Ukraine’s northeastern Kharkiv region while health care workers were evacuating patients, Ukrainian officials said.
Medics were attempting to evacuate the sick when Russia began shelling the hospital located in the village of Strilecha, Kharkiv governor Oleh Synyehubov said in a statement posted on Telegram Sunday.
Four medics were killed in the attack, while two patients were injured, Synyehubov said, citing preliminary data.
Around 30 patients were evacuated, but more than 600 remained in the hospital, the official added.
“We express deep condolences and respect. These are the actions of heroes! Unfortunately, the Russians stop at nothing – war criminals and terrorists!” Synyehubov said, according to a machine translation of his statement.
Russia carried out 226 attacks on health care targets in Ukraine during the first months of its invasion, the World Health Organization (WHO) confirmed in May.
Heavy weaponry was used in most of the attacks on Ukrainian health care facilities, the organization previously said.
Under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, “[i]ntentionally directing attacks against… hospitals and places where the sick and the wounded are collected, provided they are not military objectives,” is considered a war crime in both international and non-international armed conflicts.
“Attacks on healthcare are a violation of international humanitarian law, but a disturbingly common tactic of war – they destroy critical infrastructure, but worse, they destroy hope. They deprive already vulnerable people of care that is often the difference between life and death. Healthcare is not, and should never be, a target,” Jarno Habicht, WHO’s representative in Ukraine, said.
Russia’s armed forces have repeatedly claimed that the hospitals that they destroyed in Ukraine were used for military purposes.
An investigation by the German state-owned broadcaster Deutsche Welle on 21 Russian attacks on medical facilities found no indication that legitimate military targets or combatants were present in or in the immediate vicinity of the facilities.
Russia may be attempting to systematically destroy Ukraine’s medical infrastructure, according to Pavlo Kovtonyuk, former deputy health minister of Ukraine.
“The Russians are destroying healthcare here to terrorize citizens and to force a genocide by migration,” Kovtonyuk was quoted as saying in a report by the Atlantic Council, an American think tank.