AP

A Russian airstrike hit a maternity hospital in the besieged Ukrainian port city of Mariupol on Wednesday, wounding at least 17 people in what Ukraine officials described as a “war crime” and an “atrocity.”

The attack came amid hopes for mass-evacuations of civilians from several besieged Ukrainian cities, including Mariupol, which has been without food, water and power for days and which started burying bodies in a mass grave because its morgues are full.

In the nearly two weeks since Russia invaded Ukraine, some 2 million people have fled the country, nearly half of them children, according to UN officials. Russian troops have captured swaths of territory in the south, but have faced fierce Ukrainian resistance in other regions.

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Meanwhile, concerns rose over the safety of the decommissioned Chernobyl nuclear plant, which Russian troops seized early in the invasion and which lost power and had to revert to backup generators. And with feeding the Ukrainian populace becoming an increasing concern, the government banned the export of wheat crucial to global food supplies in an effort to stave off food shortages inside the country.

Here’s a look at key things to know about the war:

ARE CIVILIANS BEING SAFELY EVACUATED?

Civilian evacuations were expected in a number of areas, including from the northeastern border city of Sumy, which saw 5,000 people evacuated safely on Tuesday. Nearly two dozen buses carrying aid to the city are expected to return with evacuated residents, Ukrainian officials said.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said efforts were being made Wednesday to evacuate some 18,000 people from embattled towns in the Kyiv region to the capital itself. Speaking in Russian, he appealed to Russian soldiers to save themselves and “just go home.”

Other routes may be open out of Mariupol, Enerhodar in the south, Volnovakha in the southeast and Izyum in the east during a 12-hour-long cease-fire Wednesday. Civilians would be led to places in Ukraine controlled by the government.

Elsewhere, Ukrainian officials said civilians, among them children, were killed by Russian firepower in the town of Chuhuiv late Tuesday and in the city of Malyn, to the west of Kyiv.

WHAT HAS THE AP DIRECTLY WITNESSED OR CONFIRMED?

In AP video of the airstrike on the maternity hospital, thunderous bangs were followed by the sounds of glass breaking and car alarms going off as smoke rose from beyond a nearby building. Outside of Mariupol Hospital Number 3, a woman holding a small child cried uncontrollably while a Ukrainian soldier bandaged another woman’s head.

Rescue workers evacuated the injured down a staircase, including a woman who appeared to be pregnant. Her face was pale and she grabbed her belly before she was loaded into a waiting ambulance. There was a massive crater on the hospital grounds and debris everywhere.

Volodymir Nikulin, a regional police official, called it a “war crime without any justification.”

Zelenskyy tweeted that there were “people, children under the wreckage.” He called the strike an “atrocity.” Pavlo Kirilenko, a regional government official, said 17 people were wounded, though rescuers were still searching for other casualties.

Workers in Mariupol on Wednesday continued hastily and unceremoniously burying scores of dead civilians and soldiers in a mass grave dug in a cemetery in the heart of the city.

With morgues overflowing and corpses uncollected in homes, city officials decided they couldn’t wait to hold individual burials. Forty bodies were placed in the grave Tuesday and at least 30 more were put there Wednesday, though the number was rising so quickly that the total became unclear.

Some were brought wrapped in carpets or plastic bags. Workers quickly made the sign of the cross after pushing the bodies into the common grave. No family members or other mourners were there to say goodbye.

At the cemetery gates, a woman asked if her mother was among those buried in the trench. She said she had left her body three days earlier outside the morgue, with a paper label stating her name attached. Her mother was buried there, the workers told the woman, who declined to give her name.

Civilians from towns northwest of the capital, meanwhile, made their way toward Kyiv on Wednesday through a humanitarian corridor, with firefighters and police helping people carry their animals and belongings across damaged bridge over a small river.

In Kyiv, air raid sirens could be heard Wednesday morning before an all-clear was issued. Families with small children continue to seek refuge inside a subway station. One university student told the AP that people go home from time to time, only to shower and get food.

WHAT’S HAPPENING AT UKRAINIAN NUCLEAR PLANTS?

All Chernobyl nuclear plant facilities are without power and the diesel generators have fuel for 48 hours, Ukraine’s main grid operator said. The state communications agency said the power outage could put systems for cooling nuclear material at risk. The site has been under control of Russian troops since last week.

Ukraine’s nuclear regulator said remote data transmission from monitoring systems at Chernobyl has been lost.

The UN nuclear watchdog said it saw no critical impact on safety at Chernobyl because there could be “effective heat removal without need for electrical supply” from spent nuclear fuel at the site. The director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Rafael Grossi, tweeted Wednesday that he would attend a meeting Thursday in Turkey between the foreign ministers of Russia and Ukraine in the hopes of making progress on the “urgent issue of ensuring the safety and security” of Ukraine’s nuclear facilities.

Ukraine’s energy minister said Ukrainian staff at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, the largest in Europe, are physically and emotionally exhausted. He said about 500 Russian soldiers and 50 pieces of heavy equipment are inside the station, which the Russians seized last week.

WHAT ARE WESTERN COUNTRIES DOING TO HELP UKRAINE?

Western countries are sending arms and other aid to Ukraine and have ratcheted up sanctions on Russia in hopes of convincing Russian President Vladimir Putin to pull back.

Poland announced plans to send Russian-made fighter jets to a US base in Germany, where they would then be supplied to Ukraine. But both the Pentagon and Germany dismissed the idea amid fears that sending fighter jets into Ukraine from a US and NATO base could widen the conflict.

Vice President Kamala Harris is heading to Warsaw on Wednesday to try to patch things up.

WHAT’S THE VIEW FROM INSIDE RUSSIA?

Russia has cracked down on independent reporting and blocked access to Russian-language journalism by multiple foreign news outlets. Scattered protests against the war continue in the country, but people in Russia are losing sources of information about what is happening.

The US banned all Russian oil imports, even if it means rising costs for Americans, particularly at the gas pump. Shell also said it would stop buying Russian oil.

Heineken, Universal Music and Discovery joined other large companies such as McDonald’s, Starbucks, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and General Electric in suspending business in Russia. Some companies, such as McDonald’s, say they will keep paying wages to their workers in Russia, at least for now.

Russia’s Central Bank sharply tightened currency restrictions in ways not seen since Soviet times. It ordered commercial banks to cap the amount clients can withdraw from their hard currency deposits at $ 10,000 in US dollars. Any withdrawals above that amount would be converted to rubles at the current exchange rates.

Follow the AP’s coverage of the war between Russia and Ukraine: https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukrain e

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