UN says ‘high likelihood’ a Russian cruise missile hit Ukraine’s main children’s hospital

CNN — Ukraine’s largest children’s hospital likely took a direct hit from a Russian missile on Monday, a United Nations assessment has found, as NATO agreed to strengthen Kyiv’s air defenses in the wake of the attack.

Russia has repeatedly denied targeting the hospital in Kyiv and alleged, without evidence, that a Ukrainian anti-aircraft missile caused the blast. But a UN human rights official said evidence suggested Moscow’s forces were responsible for the deadly strike.

“Analysis of the video footage and assessment made at the incident site indicates a high likelihood that the children’s hospital suffered a direct hit rather than receiving damages due to an intercepted weapons system,” Danielle Bell, head of the UN’s Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine, told reporters Tuesday.

Bell said the attack damaged the intensive care, surgical and oncology wards at Kyiv’s Okhmatdyt hospital, which has been vital in the care of some of the sickest children from across the country, adding that Ukrainian officials have since transferred 600 children to other hospitals.

“This terrible attack shows that nowhere is safe in Ukraine,” Bell added.

Two adults were killed in the strike and 16 others – including seven children – were injured, according to Ukrainian officials, as Russia launched a brazen daytime aerial assault on targets in cities across Ukraine during morning rush hour, killing at least 43 people in total.

The strikes across Ukraine were “strongly” condemned by UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, while the UN’s human rights chief Volker Turk called for “prompt, thorough and independent investigations” into the attacks.

The Russian attacks came as NATO leaders gathered in Washington, where the United States and NATO allies agreed to give Ukraine more Patriot batteries and additional systems to strengthen Kyiv’s air defenses, members of the defense alliance said in a joint statement on Tuesday.

US President Joe Biden also announced plans to supply new air defenses to Ukraine in a speech opening the NATO summit – providing much-needed support for the country at a critical juncture in its defense against Russia’s invasion.

During his speech on Tuesday, Biden vowed that “the United States will make sure that when we export critical air defense interceptors, Ukraine goes to the front of the line.”

‘Targeted attack by Russia’

Images and video from the aftermath of the strike on the Kyiv hospital show children with cancer being treated outside the facility and an injured toddler with blood on his face and arms.

CNN team at the site on Tuesday said the level of destruction there showed how forceful the explosion must have been. A pile of debris could be seen in place of where part of the facility once stood, while underneath a section of flooring lay the remnants of a car that was completely flattened when the building came crashing down.

The UN’s monitoring mission said it was likely that a KH-101 cruise missile launched by Russia struck the children’s hospital. It made the determination “based on video footage, which shows the technical specification of the type of weapon that was used” and that such footage “shows the weapon directly impacting the hospital rather than being intercepted in the air,” Bell said.

A military expert who visited the site following the blast said the damage is “consistent with a direct hit,” according to Bell.

The UN mission’s assessment matches analysis from weapons experts who told CNN that footage of the hospital strike is consistent with a cruise missile rather than a Ukrainian air defense missile.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in Washington on Tuesday that “Russia always knows where its missiles hit. Always.”

On Tuesday, Russia’s UN Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia reiterated Moscow’s denial that it had targeted the children’s hospital.

“We have not bombed the children’s hospital,” Nebenzia said at a special meeting of the UN Security Council (UNSC) convened following the attack. “If this had been a Russian strike, there would have been nothing left of the building at all. All the children and most of the adults would have been killed, not wounded.”

But the US also blamed Russia for the hospital strike. US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield told the UNSC meeting that the Russian “attack makes abundantly clear: Putin is not interested in peace.”

Kyiv described the strike as a “targeted attack by Russia,” with the Ukrainian State Security Service (SBU) saying a Russian long-range cruise missile struck the facility.

“Relevant evidence has already been found at the scene of the tragedy: in particular, fragments of the rear part of the Kh-101 missile with a serial number and part of the steering wheel of the same missile,” the SBU said.

SBU chief Vasyl Maliuk vowed the agency would respond to what he said were Russian war crimes.

“This retribution will be both legal and moral,” he said.

CNN’s Sahar Akbarzai, Richard Roth, Daria Tarasova, Eve Brennan, Niamh Kennedy, Oren Liebermann and Kayla Tausche contributed reporting.