- Ukraine said three civilians died after Russia bombed a maternity hospital in Mariupol on Wednesday.
- Russia's foreign minister said on Thursday, without giving evidence, that it was occupied by Ukrainian militia.
- Multiple images showed bloodied civilians being rescued from the wreckage.
- For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said without evidence on Thursday that Russia bombed a maternity hospital in Ukraine because it contained Ukrainian militants.
Three people, including one child, were killed, and 17 people were injured in Wednesday's attack in Mariupol, the city council said, the Associated Press reported.
Images taken at the wrecked hospital showed numerous civilian injuries, including a bloodied pregnant woman being carried away on a stretcher.
However, during a press conference following talks with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, Lavrov said that the hospital was empty of patients and that Russia had told the UN it was being used as a Ukrainian militia base.
"On March 7 or 6, I don't remember exactly now, but at a meeting of the UN Security Council, facts were presented by our delegation about that this maternity hospital was seized long ago by the Azov Battalion and other radicals," Lavrov said, the state-run RIA Novosti news agency reported.
"All the women in labour, all the nurses, and all the attendants were expelled."
The Azov Battalion is a volunteer infantry unit of right-wing Ukrainian ultranationalists that became part of the country's national guard in 2014.
The UN did not immediately return a request for comment from Insider.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said on Thursday morning that the attack was an "atrocity" and showed Russia was committing "genocide."
"What kind of country is this, the Russian Federation, which is afraid of hospitals, afraid of maternity hospitals, and destroys them?" he said.
"The air bomb on the maternity hospital is the final proof," he later said. "Proof that the genocide of Ukrainians is taking place."
However, Lavrov rejected the classification at the press conference, saying: "It is not the first time we see pathetic outcries concerning so-called atrocities."
Lavrov also called the Russian invasion of Ukraine a "special military operation" and denied, falsely, that Russia had attacked Ukraine.
"We're not planning to attack other countries. We didn't even attack Ukraine," he said, repeating the claim that Russia was defending the pro-Kremlin Ukrainian territories of Donetsk and Luhansk.
Speaking at his own press conference, Kuleba said he and Lavrov had made no progress on arranging a cease-fire.