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Fact check: Ukraine did not bomb a hospital in Kyiv

July 9, 2024

On Monday, Russian missile strikes killed scores across Ukraine. In the Ukrainian capital Kyiv, a children's hospital for young cancer patients was also hit. Russia is blaming Ukraine for the attack.

Screen shots of X posts claiming Ukraine had bombed a children's hospital in Kyiv, showing images of a smoking building and missile schematics as evidence. The image is marked 'False'
Image: X

On Monday, Russian missiles struck several targets across Ukraine, killing about 40 according to recent counts. In the Ukrainian capital Kyiv, the renowned Okhmatdyt children's hospital suffered a direct hit.

Parents were seen carrying babies and children out of the building. One picture shows young children continuing their cancer treatment outside the hospital. Rescue workers and locals were seen clearing debris and tending to the injured. The Ukrainian government declared a day of mourning following the deadly attack.

Russia's defense ministry denied responsibility for the attack, claiming it had limited aerial strikes to defense industry targets and aviation bases. 

Since, several social media posts have surfaced, claiming it was not Russia, but Ukraine that bombed the children's hospital. A post on X, formerly Twitter, claimed the remains of the missile found at the site were part of a Ukrainian anti-aircraft missile system. Another post purported to show evidence that the missile that struck the hospital had been provided by the UK.

Claim: Ukraine bombed a children's hospital in Kyiv.

DW fact check: False.

After conducting a reverse image search on pictures of shrapnel that had been provided as evidence of the missile's supposed origin, we found they were old pictures — some were at least two years old.

Meanwhile, the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) has countered claims of having targeted the hospital with its own weapons by posting pictures from the site of the attack  that evidently show the building had been struck by a Russian-made Kh-101 cruise missile. The fragments on display contain a serial number, making it easy to trace the weapon's model and build.

We compared one of these pictures with an image provided by the news and photo agency Associated Press and distributed by the German press agency dpa. The details on the missile fragments were the same in both images.

Two images of detonated missile parts aligned side-by-side to show similarities
Side-by-side images offered by Ukraine's security service and the German press agency dpa show the same markings on a detonated missile found at the siteImage: Sicherheitsdienst der Ukraine | Anton Shtuka/AP/picture alliance

"Relevant evidence has already been found at the scene of the tragedy, in particular, on fragments of the hull of the rear part of the Kh-101 missile with a serial number, and part of the rudder of the same missile," the SBU wrote on Telegram.

The Kh-101 is a stealth missile, designed to defeat air defense systems by flying at low altitudes to avoid radar systems, according to the US-based Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).

An analysis by Bellingcat using social media footage and a 3D model of the missile, and of experts like Fabian Hoffman, a doctoral research fellow at the University of Oslo who specializes in missile technology, also points to the munition being a Russian Kh-101 cruise missile.

Russia has denied responsibility for the hospital attack and instead attempted to shift the blame to Ukraine. In a post published on X and Telegram, Russia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated that the attacks had been in response to Kyiv's "attempts to damage objects of Russian power infrastructure and economy." In the post, the ministry denied attacking civilian targets, adding that "numerous published photos and footage from Kyiv clearly confirm that the destruction was caused by a Ukrainian air-defense missile."

Mothers with concerned expressions on their faces cradle children in a hospital basement
Mothers sheltered with their children in the hospital's basement following a missile strike on MondayImage: Thomas Peter/REUTERS

Experts believe that such incidents can have long-term consequences for both sides, affecting either the scope of sanctions or amount of support the international community imposes on or extends to the warring parties.  

"Whatever we see presented by both sides, we have to be very careful. Unless there is an independent team that is not on the Russian side and not on the Ukrainian side that investigates these incidents, I believe it's very difficult to get to the bottom of what exactly happens," said Marina Miron, a researcher in the War Studies department at King's College London, told DW.

Several viral posts pushing Russia's claims

Supporting the Russian narrative, several social media posts claimed the attack was carried out by Ukrainian armed forces. One such post has over 22,000 views on X. Another post on X claims that the hospital building was struck by a US-made missile. It was viewed over 5 million times.

Both posts claimed that Patriot guided missile systems, provided by the US,  had struck the hospital.

Disinformation as a weapon of war

Since Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022, misinformation and disinformation on both warring parties has been spreading through social media. Experts say both sides have used false claims to set narratives in their favor.

"It's quite a dangerous tool that is part of psychological operations. And we have to remember that both Ukraine and Russia come from a Soviet tradition where intelligence services, including the KGB, were very much involved in forgeries, spreading misinformation and disinformation through different institutions," Miron told DW.

Ukraine has classified the Russian attack on Okhmatdyt Hospital as a war crime and has opened criminal proceedings. 

Edited by: Rachel Baig

Russian missiles hit hospital in Kyiv, killing dozens