Workers and volunteers rush to help dismantle the roof of the Okhmadyt children’s hospital in Kyiv on July 8, 2024. (Kollen Post/Breaking Defense)

Editor’s note: On Monday, a Russian missile struck a children’s hospital in Kyiv, an act that has captured global attention and led to fresh condemnation of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Breaking Defense contributor Kollen Post was in Kyiv when the strike happened. Below, he details the scene in the immediate aftermath. 

KYIV — At the tail end of Monday morning a Russian cruise missile flew into the toxicology building next door to Alina and Yulya, blowing it into rubble.

“We were right here, we were in the middle of heart surgery,” Alina, a surgical assistant, told Breaking Defense. “We had to stay and close it up.”

The cardiology building where they work is still standing behind them, but all of the windows have been blown in. The first reaction, says Yulia, “We had to protect the children. Then patch ourselves up,” she says, nodding at the cuts running down Alina’s forearms from the glass shards.

“Thank God we didn’t have any serious injuries on our side,” Yulia continued.

The children were taken away quickly, particularly the ones in the worst condition. One of the last out of the hospital was a little girl, maybe eight, wheeled out in a stroller, cheeks swollen but the deep cuts in them patched. Her face was still covered with blood.

Two other children sat on a bench in a park area near the entrance to the hospital grounds, a pair of nurses kneeling down to bandage the cuts on their arms as firefighters rushed by. A little boy sobbed, asking to go home.

Russia’s mid-day strikes on Monday, July 8, shook Ukraine metaphorically and literally. The air force tallied 38 rockets, with eight that they did not manage to shoot down. Andriy Yermak, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s right-hand man, counted 36 dead and four times that figure wounded across the country.

Kyiv bore the brunt of the attack. Columns of smoke were visible all along the horizon of the right bank, the heart of the city, which had been experiencing a beautiful summer morning.

What has captured global attention was the destruction at Okhmadyt, a children’s hospital in the west central of the city where Iryna and Yulya work.

The front of Okhmadyt hospital in Kyiv, in the wake of a Russian airstrike. (Kollen Post/Breaking Defense)

The scene was pure chaos, as doctors and medics rushed to get injured children out of harms way. Swarms of ambulances from across town convened and blocked traffic at Metro Lukyanivska. Smoke poured out from the toxicology building, which in addition to the cardiology building is surrounded on three sides by the main hospital, which dwarfs it.

The siding of the larger building is now in rubble on the steps and wheelchair ramp, and almost all of its windows are shattered. From the sidewalk, broken furniture is visible,, as are ceilings painted with fanciful cartoon tigers and teddy bears.

Telegram channels called for volunteers to bring water and help sort through the wreckage. Circular saws buzzed and lines of men held up and brought down the rafters of the toxicology building. They joined firefighters, paramedics and soldiers churning across the hospital grounds.

Many sifted through rubble in search of wounded or dead. They periodically uncovered equipment and pushed it aside — ranks of gurneys, incubators, EKGs and so on lining the sidewalks

Kyiv Mayor Vitaliy Klitschko reported two dead in the attack at the hospital, including one young doctor. 16 others were injured, including seven children. Throughout the city, 12 died as a result of the attacks.

Shortly after 1 PM, another explosion overhead sent the crowd gathered around the hospital into various nooks and crannies of the hospital grounds. Russia’s proclivity for the “double-tap” — sending an additional strike aimed at first responders — is well known. In the basement of the ruined hospital, staff and volunteers alike passed around water and ferociously refreshed phones looking for the official “vidbiy,” the end of the latest alert, so they could get back to picking up the literal pieces.