Let’s not kid ourselves: destroying hospitals is part of the Kremlin’s strategy

The news that came from kyiv on July 8 about another attack on Ukrainian cities, with missiles hitting medical infrastructure, including the largest children’s hospital in Ukraine, is shocking. Unfortunately, these events are not surprising if we consider that the attacks on hospitals are not inadvertent, but part of a strategy that Russia has already implemented before.

We saw this in Syria after Moscow’s intervention in 2015. If the trend in Ukraine continues, it is plausible that the Russian military will continue to use its toolbox that we have already seen in Syrian cities.

Russia sent military forces to support President Bashar al-Assad’s regime at a time when Syrian rebels were just a few kilometres from the presidential palace in Damascus. Taking advantage of the civil war, Moscow expanded its existing positions and built new bases for its forces inside Syrian territory, which are still active today. These bases played an important role in stabilising the Syrian regime and driving rebels out of many areas of the country.

The massive presence that the Russian military, together with Iran, built up in Syria for three years resulted in destruction and civilian casualties. This alliance with Tehran has been put into practice again in Ukraine, where Iranian-made drones attacked civilian infrastructure in Ukrainian cities.

From 2015 to February 2022, Russian forces used Syrian territory for three main purposes: creating a bridgehead for military operations in other areas such as Libya, strengthening military and political positions in the Mediterranean, and conducting weapons tests. It is hard to forget the pride President Vladimir Putin felt for saying Russia has successfully tested more than 200 weapons in Syria. Some of these missiles and projectiles have been used in Ukraine since 2022, and the Russian military has been sending weapons captured on the Ukrainian front to Syria and Iran for research.

But in addition to weapons, Russia has tested concepts in Syria that it will later repeat against the Ukrainian population. The attacks on hospitals are a clear example of this. As a result of the attacks and military operations of the Assad regime and the Russian air force, almost 90% of the medical infrastructure in Syrian cities where rebel activity has intensified has been damaged and put out of service.

In major cities such as Damascus and Aleppo, entire neighbourhoods have been destroyed. There are many similarities with the war in Ukraine, but the difference is that in Ukraine, the Russian army has been implementing for months a strategy of destruction that has been underway in Syria for several years.

The destruction of civilian infrastructure will continue because that is what war is like. The brutality is directly related to events on the front. Russia’s advance in the Kharkiv region has stalled, and the advance in eastern Ukraine is also not going as planned. The Ukrainian army has several problems, notably a lack of personnel and weapons, but it has managed to repel most of the attacks on the front lines.

He Kremlin Russia provided diplomatic cover to the Assad regime after Damascus used chemical weapons against its own citizens. In addition, Russia attacked hospitals and other critical infrastructure, including those whose coordinates were not available. shared with the Russian UN command, to undermine the morale of the rebel forces and force them to disperse.

Russia is attempting to do the same in Ukraine today, acting with particular brutality when its war is not going as planned. The Russian military is attacking civilian areas to disperse the resources of the Ukrainian forces currently concentrated along the front. Moscow knows that Ukraine needs additional air defense systems to defend its cities and skies, and it is exploiting this weakness with devastating consequences.

Despite all the terrible losses, kyiv’s Western allies continue to prevent the Ukrainian armed forces from launching long-range strikes against Russian military infrastructure, and this is a mistake. All the signed security treaties and support of that kind are of no use without permission to strike back inside Russian territory. Otherwise, attacks like today’s will continue without serious consequences for Russian military infrastructure and bases.

The attacks on hospitals and other infrastructure will not stop even if negotiations are held. The aim of the invasion of Ukraine was to seize, occupy and exploit territory that Russia considers its own, not to sit down at a table and talk.

Attacks such as those on the kyiv children’s hospital and the Dnipro medical centre are only part of this strategy and should remind Ukraine’s allies – some of whom have wavered – that kyiv urgently needs military support and assurances that it can defend its skies. Reality is not just knocking on the door: it is blowing up cities.

Opinions expressed in opinion pieces do not necessarily reflect the position of The Moscow Times.

…we have a small favor to ask you. As you may have heard, the Moscow Times, an independent news source for more than 30 years, has been unfairly branded a “foreign agent” by the Russian government. This blatant attempt to silence our voice is a direct attack on the integrity of journalism and the values ​​we hold dear.

We, the journalists of The Moscow Times, refuse to be silenced. Our commitment to providing accurate and unbiased reporting on Russia remains unwavering, but we need your help to continue our important mission.

Your support, however small, makes a big difference. If you can, support us monthly starting from as little as $2. It’s quick to set up and you can be sure that you’re making a meaningful impact every month by supporting open and independent journalism. Thank you.


payment methods

Not ready for support today?
Remind me later.