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The news from Kyiv on July 8 about another attack on Ukrainian cities, with missiles hitting medical infrastructure – including Ukraine’s largest children’s hospital – is shocking. Alas, these events come as no surprise when we look at how attacking hospitals is not unintentional, but part of a strategy Russia has deployed before.

We saw this in Syria following Moscow’s 2015 intervention. If the trend in Ukraine continues, it is plausible that the Russian army 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 mere miles away from the presidential palace in Damascus. Taking advantage of the civil war, Moscow expanded its existing positions and built new bases for its forces deep inside Syrian territory, which are still active today. These bases played an important role in stabilizing the Syrian regime and pushing rebels out of many areas of the country.

The firm foothold in Syria that the Russian army, together with Iran, built over three years came the cost of civilian casualties and destruction. This alliance with Tehran is active once again in Ukraine, as Iranian-origin drones targeted civilian infrastructure in Ukrainian cities.


The Kremlin provided diplomatic cover to the Assad regime after Damascus used chemical weapons against its own citizens. Furthermore, Russia targeted hospitals and other critical infrastructure, including those whose coordinates were shared with the Russian command by the UN, to undermine the morale of rebel forces and force them to disperse.

Russia is trying to do the same in Ukraine today, acting with special brutality when its war is not going to plan. The Russian army 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.


Attacks on hospitals and other infrastructure will not stop even if there are negotiations. The purpose of the invasion of Ukraine was to seize, occupy, and exploit territory that Russia believes is its own, not to sit around a table talking.

Attacks like the one on the children’s hospital in Kyiv and the medical center in Dnipro are just part of this strategy and should remind Ukraine’s allies – some of whom have wavered – that Kyiv urgently needs military support and guarantees that it will be able to defend its skies. Reality is not just knocking at the door – it is blowing up cities.