Skip to content

Russian propagandists spin conflicting disinformation in bid to evade responsibility for missile strike on children’s hospital

As some Russian talking heads call for more Ukrainians to be killed, Zelensky’s top aide urges more Western help to stop a war of ‘genocide’

by Oleg Sukhov July 10, 2024 12:53 AM 7 min read
A Ukrainian doctor (C) stands amid the rubble of the destroyed building of the Okhmatdyt children's hospital after a Russian missile attack on Kyiv, Ukraine, on July 8, 2024. (Roman Pilipey/AFP via Getty Images)

As some Russian talking heads call for more Ukrainians to be killed, Zelensky’s top aide urges more Western help to stop a war of ‘genocide’

by Oleg Sukhov July 10, 2024 12:53 AM 7 min read
This audio is created with AI assistance

Support independent journalism in Ukraine. Join us in this fight.

Become a member Support us just once

Scrambling Kremlin propagandists have projected conflicting narratives of disinformation and spin to deflect blame from Russia's July 8 massive missile attack that shocked the world by striking Kyiv’s primary children’s hospital.

The deadliest attack in months involving nearly 40 missiles targeting Kyiv and other regions threatens to backfire on Moscow as it took place on the eve of the July 9-11 NATO summit in Washington, where Ukraine is pushing to receive larger long-term aid commitments from allies.

After footage of children being pulled from hospital compound rubble triggered outrage, the Kremlin adopted and has stuck to an official line that it was a Ukrainian surface-to-air missile that hit the Okhmatdyt hospital.

This narrative, for which no evidence was presented, has been debunked by Western, Ukrainian and independent Russian analysts.

Ukrainian officials have released videos showing what they claim to be an intact Russian missile – clearly not debris from one intercepted – zooming down from the sky in a controlled descent towards the hospital which has treated children injured during Russia’s full-scale invasion. Modern air defense missiles that fail to intercept targets in the sky, such as the ones Western allies have supplied to Kyiv, are programmed to self-destruct so as not to fall on unintended targets.

Russian propagandists have also tried to portray the attack as a legitimate response to alleged Ukrainian attacks on Russian civilian facilities.

Other pro-Kremlin commentators went further. They gloated over the damage caused by the attack and called for more Ukrainians to be killed.

Russian opposition columnist Yulia Latynina told the Kyiv Independent that the Kremlin's insistence on obviously false narratives makes its propaganda less effective.

"There are some people who seriously believe it, but these are the same kind of people who believe in a flat Earth," she added.

‘I want Russians to feel it on their own skin’: Shock, fury at the site of children’s hospital attack
Nurse Olesia Filonenko was preparing for the first operation of the day at the Okhmatdyt children’s hospital in Kyiv when she heard explosions “somewhere far away.” “Then, in a second, everything was blown away,” she told the Kyiv Independent. “Dust, smoke. We were all blown out of the operating r…

Russia’s debunked narrative

Russia's Defense Ministry claimed on July 8 that the Okhmatdyt hospital had been hit by a Ukrainian air defense missile. No evidence for this version has been presented.

Meanwhile, Russian TV propagandist Vladimir Solovyov and Russian pro-war Telegram channels claimed that the missile debris found near Okhmatdyt were from a U.S.-made NASAMS air defense missile fired by Ukraine.

Pro-Kremlin social media users also posted photos of what they claimed was shrapnel from Ukrainian air defense missiles found at the hospital. The photos turned out to be from 2022 and from May 2024, according to an investigation by the AP news agency.

The Kremlin’s version has been debunked by evidence that the hospital was hit by a Russian Kh-101 cruise missile.

Ukraine’s Security Service said it had found wreckage from a Kh-101 missile at the hospital and opened a criminal case into the attack. The service posted photos of the debris.

Danielle Bell, head of the U.N. Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine, endorsed this version on July 9.

"Analysis of the video footage and an assessment made at the incident site indicates a high likelihood that the children's hospital suffered a direct hit rather than receiving damage due to an intercepted weapon system," he said.

Western military analysts, including Def Mon and the Institute for the Study of War, have also confirmed this version. So did the open-source investigations outlet Bellingcat.

Russian independent military blogger Michael Nacke also said the hospital was hit by a Kh-101 missile, based on photos and videos of the attack. He argued that the Russian missile hit the hospital without being downed.

According to Nacke, the missile was flying at a 45-degree angle along a straight trajectory, which indicates that it was not downed.

Russia probes for air defense gaps to wreak havoc on Kyiv
Russia unleashed one of its deadliest attacks against Kyiv on July 8, killing more than 30 civilians and injuring over 100. Residential buildings and medical facilities suffered damage, with one Russian missile hitting Ohkmatdyt, the country’s largest children’s medical center. Rather than evidenc…

Russian propagandists chime in

Vasily Nebenzya, Russia’s ambassador to the UN, claimed at a UN Security Council meeting on July 9 that one of the Russian missiles allegedly targeted the Artem arms factory not far from the Okhmatdyt hospital but was intercepted by a Ukrainian surface-to-air missile, which allegedly fell on the hospital.

"If this had been a Russian strike, there would have been nothing left of the (hospital) building," he said. "All the children and most of the adults would have been killed and not wounded."

Nebenzya also alleged that, by focusing on the Okhmatdyt attack, the Ukrainian authorities were trying to divert attention from corruption and Ukrainian troops' retreats.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov also commented on the Okhmatdyt attack on July 9, saying that “we do not conduct strikes on civilian targets.”

“Strikes are carried out against critical infrastructure facilities, against military targets that are in one way or another related to the military,” he claimed.

Meanwhile, Solovyov claimed on his TV show on July 8 that the Russian attack was "a response to attacks by Ukraine's armed forces on our civilian sites."

"Attempts to accuse Russia of attacking civilian sites look like just another circus show ahead of the NATO summit," he added.

He claimed that the death toll in Kyiv was a result of Ukraine placing military facilities in a densely populated urban area and Ukrainian air defense inefficiency.

The claims of Peskov and Solovyov contradict abundant evidence showing that Russia has repeatedly targeted and hit civilian facilities, including healthcare infrastructure, in Ukraine.

Before the Okhmatdyt strike, the World Health Organization had documented 18 deaths and 81 injuries from more than 175 attacks on healthcare infrastructure in Ukraine for the first half of 2024. The organization also said there had been 44 attacks on medical vehicles in that period.

In 2023, there were 22 deaths and 117 injuries from Russian attacks on healthcare infrastructure in Ukraine, according to the WHO.

Attacks on civilian hospitals are prohibited by the Geneva Convention.

Some pro-Kremlin bloggers contradicted the official line by gloating over the attack and calling for more people to be killed.

"(These are) evacuated moms with sick children from the Okhmatdyt hospital into whose courtyard a downed missile fell," a popular pro-Kremlin blogger going under the name Alex Parker Returns wrote on Telegram about a photo of women and children in front of the hospital. "Is it just me who's thinking of a double tap strike with a Kinzhal missile?"

Another pro-Kremlin Telegram channel, Voevoda Veshchaet, also seemed to contradict the official propaganda line by mentioning a Kh-101 missile, which was used to attack the Okhmatdyt hospital.

"Ukrainians say: we have been waging a war for many years. Our entire sky is covered with Western air defense systems. Kh-101 replies: fuck you," he wrote.

Opinion: The children’s hospital attack highlights the failure of American empathy
Russia launched a mass missile attack across several Ukrainian cities on July 8, killing 31 people and injuring at least 117 in Kyiv alone. One of the attack sites was the Okhmatdyt hospital, Ukraine’s largest children’s medical center. While no children were killed at the center itself, four

Ukrainian and Western reactions

The reactions in Ukraine and the West contrasted with the Russian propaganda line, condemning the attack.

"Ruscism is modern fascism," President Volodymyr Zelensky’s chief of staff Andriy Yermak said on Telegram. "Russia is committing genocide and wants to kill our people and children. They are trying to intimidate the world ahead of the NATO summit."

Pleading for more military assistance to help stall Russia’s full-scale invasion launched more than two years ago and liberate all occupied land, Yermak added that Putin "is showing that he can kill anyone he wants with impunity."

Meanwhile, U.S. President Joe Biden condemned Russia's July 8 attack on Ukraine and added that "it is critical that the world continues to stand with Ukraine at this important moment."

Michael O'Flaherty, commissioner for human rights at the Council of Europe, said that "Russia's deadly missile attacks on civilian infrastructure in Kyiv and other Ukrainian cities yesterday are yet another glaring example of the brutality of Russian forces and their leadership."

"The bombing of Kyiv's Okhmatdyt hospital, a sanctuary for children and the country’s largest pediatric hospital, is a particularly grim illustration of the terrible toll Russia’s aggression has had on the dignity, safety and human rights of Ukrainian people, including countless children," he added.

Stéphane Dujarric, the spokesman for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterrez, also responded to the attack.

"Directing attacks against civilians and civilian objects is prohibited by international humanitarian law, and any such attacks are unacceptable and must end immediately," he said.

F-16s, multi-billion pledge, more Patriots, ‘irreversible’ membership – what Ukraine will and won’t get at the NATO Summit
While 75th birthdays are usually a cause for joy and celebration, NATO’s marking of this milestone at a three-day summit in Washington from 9-11 July is likely to be a rather more muted affair. Ukraine is understandably top of the agenda, with a Russian mass missile attack on July 8

Editors' Picks

Enter your email to subscribe
Please, enter correct email address
* indicates required
* indicates required
* indicates required
* indicates required
* indicates required


* indicates required
* indicates required


* indicates required
* indicates required


* indicates required
Successfuly subscribed
Thank you for signing up for this newsletter. We’ve sent you a confirmation email.