Experts: Damage to children’s hospital consistent with Russian missile


Lerato Khumalo

Heavy destruction and a characteristic cruise missile approaching: the facts point to a Russian attack on the children’s hospital in Kiev, even if Moscow claims the opposite.

Ukraine and the UN Human Rights Office blame a Russian Kh-101 (also Ch-101) cruise missile for the severe damage to one of Kyiv’s most important children’s hospitals. However, a different version is being spread on social media and by the Russian government without any evidence: the Ukrainian air defense system is to blame. Is it really so unclear what happened at the Ochmatdyt children’s hospital in Kyiv?

A Ukrainian anti-aircraft missile from the Nasams system hit near the children’s hospital in Kyiv. Russia cannot therefore be responsible for the attack.

Military experts contradict Moscow’s claim: Such destruction could be caused more easily by a Russian Kh-101 cruise missile. One of these can also be seen in videos of the missile impact.

Several rockets struck the Ukrainian capital Kiev on the morning of July 8. A building at the Ochmatdyt Children’s Hospital in the northwest of the city was also hit, as photos from Ukrainian authorities and independent journalists show. The partial collapse of an adjacent building is clearly visible. The force of the explosion also damaged the Y-shaped main building, which stands just over 50 meters away.

Many windows and parts of the cladding of the approximately ten-story facade were destroyed. According to three military experts, this damage does not fit with the claim that an anti-aircraft missile, such as those used by the Ukrainian Nasams air defense system, hit the building.

For the Nasams, a system developed by Norwegian and US arms companies, Ukraine uses AIM-120 AMRAAM anti-aircraft missiles. They have a warhead weighing around 20 kilograms. “The AIM-120 AMRAAM is an anti-aircraft missile designed to shoot down missiles. The warhead is designed to explode next to the missile so that the fragments hit it,” Markus Schiller told the German Press Agency. The rocket technology expert teaches long-range missiles at the Bundeswehr University and conducts research at the Swedish Sipri Institute, which conducts research into global armaments, among other things.

According to Schiller, the many metal parts from this anti-aircraft missile are, in a way, piercing their target. However, such a phenomenon is not visible at the clinic. “If an anti-aircraft missile had hit there, you would see many small craters or depressions caused by the fragments at the impact site, not a half-collapsed building. It would also not generate such a large pressure wave,” says Schiller. “The damage pattern clearly shows the impact of something larger.”

Fabian Hoffmann, who is doing his doctorate in rocket technology and nuclear strategy at the University of Oslo, comes to the same conclusion. The amount of actual explosive in a 20-kilogram warhead of an AIM-120 is limited. This would “never be able to cause such a level of destruction,” Hoffmann told the dpa. The damage profile matches that of a Kh-101 warhead of the Russian cruise missile, which weighs around 400 to 450 kilograms in total.

There are at least two different eyewitness videos of the missile’s approach and the moment of impact. The fact that the same scene is shown from slightly different angles makes manipulation extremely unlikely. The videos can be clearly traced to the location of the attack via the facade of the children’s hospital.

According to military researcher Timothy Wright, the damage to windows in the multi-story main building, which is about 50 meters from the missile impact site, a large fireball and a high plume of smoke indicate the detonation of a large rather than a small warhead. “Based on these indicators, it is almost certain that the missile that hit the Ohmatdyt children’s hospital was a Russian Kh-101 and not a Ukrainian Nasams,” the scientist from the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) think tank told dpa.

If you take a closer look at individual sections of the video of the rocket’s approach, you can see a dark, rectangular-looking attachment at the rear. Wright explains what this is: “The video also clearly shows an engine under the rocket cell, a feature that is present on the Kh-101 but not on the Nasams, whose solid-fuel engine is completely housed in the rocket’s casing.” This observation is confirmed by the other two military experts and research by the investigative platform Bellingcat.