Hospitals evacuated in Kyiv after threat from Belarus

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KYIV — City authorities on Friday urgently evacuated two hospitals, including a children’s hospital, after the head of the Belarusian KGB claimed “terrorists” were being treated there — an accusation that Ukrainian officials called “a lie and provocation,” but which set off fears of an imminent attack.

Speaking before a meeting of the All-Belarusian People’s Assembly — a political gathering headed by the Belarusian strongman leader Aleksandr Lukashenko — the KGB head, Ivan Tertel, specified the addresses of the hospitals, which are located next to each other in the Ukrainian capital. Tertel promised to “impose punishment.”

At one of the hospitals, Tertel said, Ukrainian military personnel were being treated, hiding “behind the backs of sick children.”

“All these people and their plans are known to us,” Tertel said. “In the fight against terrorism, we act according to the laws of wartime — decisively and without hesitation.”

Kyiv authorities viewed Tertel’s statement — which was posted as a video on the internet — as a possible warning of a missile or drone attack.

“The enemy actually announced an attack on these medical institutions, naming even the addresses,” Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said, speaking in a video he posted on social media that was self-recorded from the grounds in front of the children’s hospital.

“Allegedly there are military personnel in these institutions,” Klitschko said, rebutting it as a false claim directed by Russia “to attack the capital’s social infrastructure.”

Belarus is allied with Russia and allowed Moscow’s forces to use its territory to invade Ukraine from the north in February 2022. Since then, however, Lukashenko has resisted pressure to involve Belarusian forces directly in Russia’s war.

Klitschko said that officials “had to do everything to move the patients and medical personnel to other medical institutions in our city.”

“This is a complicated and not an easy process,” Klitschko said. “But we cannot risk the lives of people.”

A Washington Post team arrived at the children’s hospital as the last parents were leaving with their children and the emergency ward had been fully evacuated. There was no sign of any military personnel being treated on the premises.

Ihor Zorkov led his daughter Viktoriya, 2, by the hand as they walked down the hallway to the hospital exit, and he juggled three small plastic bags with her belongings. Viktoriya had been in the hospital for the past five days with a viral infection and a fever, he said.

“They say we can come back Monday,” Zorkov said, as Viktoriya started to cry. “There’s a risk of an attack.”

Yevhenia Hryhoryeva, the head doctor at the children’s hospital, said that the evacuation began a half-hour after city officials contacted her and was completed within 90 minutes. She declined to say how many children were evacuated.

The hospital was not harboring Ukrainian service members, Hryhoryeva said, though she said she was not surprised by the accusation. There is “a lot of disinformation every day” from Russia and its allies, she said.

“We are all used to it, so we don’t pay attention to it at all,” she said. “We only think about what actions there should be to quickly evacuate the children.”

Ukraine’s security service, the SBU, said in a statement that reports of “mythical terrorists who are allegedly in Ukrainian hospitals” were a form of “informational and psychological special operations that play into the hands of the Russian Federation.”

“The representatives of the Belarusian regime, which has completely surrendered its country to Russia, should understand a simple thing — the people who protect Ukraine from the invaders are heroes, not terrorists,” the SBU said. “Because the real terrorists are in the Kremlin.”

The statement added: “The Belarusian authorities should not scare Ukrainians with false statements but think about how not to end up on the dock in The Hague next to the Kremlin dictator.”

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