The facility had not been used by civilians for some time before it was hit, Lavrov said
Aftermath of a Russian airstrike on a maternity hospital in the Ukrainian city of Mariupol. Image via Global Look Press
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov denied Ukrainian claims that Russian troops had shelled an operating maternity hospital in Ukraine. The building had been used as a base by the far-right Azov Battalion of the Ukrainian National Guard, the top Russian diplomat claimed on Thursday, during a press conference in Turkey.
The hospital in question has been for days under the control of a Ukrainian paramilitary group and Moscow presented evidence of this to the UN Security Council several days ago, Lavrov said.
"The Azov Battalion and other radicals kicked out all the expectant mothers, the nurses and other staff members. It was the base of the Azov ultra-radicals," he said, speaking after meeting his Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba in Turkey's Antalya.
Lavrov added that reports coming from Ukraine that contradict this were obviously meant to "manipulate global public opinion" about what is happening in the country, and he also chastised Western media for taking part in the propaganda effort.
"I have seen reports ... that were really emotional. Unfortunately, the other side of the situation, which would allow one to form an objective opinion, was not given any prominence," Lavrov said.
The Russian diplomat was commenting on claims raised by Ukraine that Russian troops had deliberately attacked a medical facility in the city of Mariupol on Wednesday. Ukrainian officials claimed that a Russian airstrike had injured at least 17 people but killed nobody.
Footage from the scene showed a heavily damaged building with broken medical equipment scattered inside and Ukrainian troops helping women, some of them carrying infants in their arms, who were implied to be survivors of a bombing.
Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a video address on Wednesday that the incident proved that Russia was conducting a genocide of the Ukrainian people and called on other nations to stop Russian atrocities.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov earlier on Thursday commented on the allegations, suggesting the details are rather vague and it's better to prompt the Russian military for details.
"We will definitely ask our military. You and I don't have definitive information about what had happened there," he told journalists.