Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

World leaders condemn Russia's strike on Kyiv hospital as NATO takes up Ukraine


Ukraine's president is here in Washington, meeting leaders of the alliance that his country would like to join.


And he's saying that Russia will stop at nothing in its campaign to take over Ukraine. Zelenskyy spoke at the Reagan Institute here, reminding his audience of a missile strike on a children's hospital this week in the capital, Kyiv.


PRESIDENT VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY: Russia always knows where its missiles hit - always. A direct hit on a hospital building.

PFEIFFER: NPR's Ashley Westerman has been monitoring reaction to that attack. She joins us from Lviv. Hi, Ashley.


PFEIFFER: How significant is it that this particular hospital was hit?

WESTERMAN: So the Okhmatdyt hospital is Ukraine's largest pediatric hospital. It's known for treating child cancer and organ transplants, and the hospital's CEO says the toxicology and trauma departments, as well as Ukraine's only blood cancer treatment lab, were destroyed in Monday's strike. Jarno Habicht is the World Health Organization country director for Ukraine, based in Kyiv.

JARNO HABICHT: It was devastating. We walked in the hospital's - in several wards where equipment was damaged. We saw health care workers, patients, children with their parents in the shelter, but then also the ambulances coming to take away the children to the new hospitals.

WESTERMAN: Now, Sacha, no children died, but two adults did, and two days later, rescuers are still trying to dig people out of the rubble. Now, Ukrainians are, of course, shocked and angry at what happened, but Habicht says Russian missiles hitting civilian infrastructure is not new.

HABICHT: WHO has monitored, verified and reported 1,882 attacks on health, so we have seen numerous attacks through all this war over last two years.

WESTERMAN: And now, when these things happen, Russia typically says they were actually aiming at something else, and a hospital or clinic happens to get hit, and that's the same thing they said about what happened on Monday.

PFEIFFER: Ashley, you mentioned shock and anger, of course. What else are you hearing about a reaction to the strike?

WESTERMAN: So Ukrainians are taking to the internet and saying, see, Russia even kills children to achieve their goals here. Outside of Ukraine, the condemnations have rolled in from Kyiv's allies. President Biden called the attack, quote, "a horrific reminder of Russia's brutality." The U.K's new prime minister, Sir Keir Starmer, said attacking a children's hospital was, in his words, the most depraved of actions. And NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said it was a horrendous and heinous attack.

PFEIFFER: Speaking of NATO, the NATO summit is happening in D.C. right now, and long-term aid to Ukraine is on the agenda. Do Ukrainians have any sense of whether this hospital attack could move the needle at this summit, in terms of getting more aid to Ukraine?

WESTERMAN: So Ukrainians would certainly like to think the attack has created some momentum in their favor, and President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is not going to let attendees of the summit forget it, but Michael Kofman at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace is skeptical.

MICHAEL KOFMAN: My view of events of this type is that most of the substance tends to be agreed prior to the summit itself, and that the summit is more of a convening event than not.

WESTERMAN: So really, Sacha, we'll just have to wait and see how the NATO summit goes.

PFEIFFER: That's NPR's Ashley Westerman in Lviv. Thank you.

WESTERMAN: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Ashley Westerman is a producer who occasionally directs the show. Since joining the staff in June 2015, she has produced a variety of stories including a coal mine closing near her hometown, the 2016 Republican National Convention, and the Rohingya refugee crisis in southern Bangladesh. She is also an occasional reporter for Morning Edition, and, where she has contributed reports on both domestic and international news.
Sacha Pfeiffer is a correspondent for NPR's Investigations team and an occasional guest host for some of NPR's national shows.