Ukraine war: Hospital struggling to prepare for Russian advance

Medics at a pediatric hospital in Zaporizhzhia make preparations as they brace for a Russian assault on the city in eastern Ukraine.

Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine – Two weeks ago, Nastiya left her town of Vasylivka in eastern Ukraine to bring her five-year-old son Volodymyr to a hospital in the city of Zaporizhzhia, further north.

The boy was suffering from internal bleeding and was in a critical condition. He has since improved but the mother and son cannot return home.

On February 24, Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered troops to attack Ukraine by air, land and sea. Ukraine’s resistance has been fierce, repelling attacks on the capital, Kyiv, and other major cities, but battles have intensified in recent days.

Vasylivka is one of the towns that are being heavily fought over by defending Ukrainian forces and advancing Russian troops. People who attempted to enter the town to deliver aid told Al Jazeera they were turned back by the Ukrainian army because of the Russian shelling.

“Of course I’m worried, I have three other children at home,” Nastiya told Al Jazeera’s Charles Stratford, standing beside Volodymyr’s hospital bed.

“There has been shelling and they are hiding in the basement.”

INTERACTIVE Russia-Ukraine map Who controls what in Ukraine DAY 8
(Al Jazeera)

Elsewhere inside the hospital, newborn babies in incubators line the corridor. Doctors have moved them here to shield them in the case of Russian shelling.

“This area is protected from shrapnel if there is a blast so we put the babies here,” explained Vyacheslav Kapusta, a doctor at the hospital. “It is deep inside the building between two walls.”

In the hospital’s cold and damp basement, staff are preparing beds for a possible transport of patients.

“They all have terminal diseases,” Igor Buiny, an anaesthetist, told Al Jazeera from inside the intensive care unit.

“They are incurable so we have to leave them here in case of an air alert because they are dependent on oxygen and resuscitation equipment and we cannot transport everything necessary for them there.”

Outside the hospital, volunteers are filling sandbags to strengthen doorways and protect the windows if shells explode nearby.

As Russian troops move further into Ukraine, civilians have been organising to help fight alongside Ukrainian soldiers, the pace more urgent since the army said this week Russian tank columns are less than 40km (25 miles) away.

Armed volunteers are also ready to be taken to positions around the city, and more men and women arrive, waiting to sign up to fight.

“I don’t want my family killed. I won’t allow them to march on our land. They are the occupiers and they should be eliminated,” one man told Al Jazeera.

Russia insists its forces are only targeting military infrastructure, but reports from the ground suggest a mounting civilian death toll. The United Nations says it has confirmed the deaths of at least 227 civilians and 525 people injured as of midnight on March 1, but warns the real toll is likely much higher.

Source: Al Jazeera