Vasilisa Stepanenko / AP
KYIV, Ukraine — Ukraine’s health minister has accused Russian authorities of committing a crime against humanity by blocking access to affordable medicine in areas its forces occupied after invading the country 5 1/2 months ago.
In an interview with the Associated Press agency, Minister of Health of Ukraine Viktor Lyashko said that the Russian authorities have repeatedly blocked efforts to provide state-subsidized medicines to people in occupied cities, towns and villages.
“During the entire six months of the war, Russia did not (allow) proper humanitarian corridors so that we could provide our medicines to patients who need them,” Liashko said, speaking at the Ministry of Health in Kyiv on Friday evening.
“We believe that these actions are being done deliberately by Russia, and we consider them to be crimes against humanity and war crimes that will be documented and recognized,” the minister said.
The Ukrainian government has a program that provides medicines to people with cancer and chronic diseases. The destruction of hospitals and infrastructure, along with the displacement of an estimated 7 million people inside the country, has also prevented other forms of treatment, according to the United Nations and Ukrainian officials.
The war in Ukraine has caused major disruptions to the country’s public health service, which was undergoing major reforms, largely in response to the coronavirus pandemic, when Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered his troops to invade on February 24.
The World Health Organization said there had been 445 attacks on hospitals and other medical facilities as of August 11, directly resulting in 86 deaths and 105 injuries.
But Lyashko said that the secondary consequences were much more serious.
“When roads and bridges are damaged in areas now controlled by Ukrainian forces… it is difficult to get a person who has a heart attack or a stroke to the hospital,” he said. “Sometimes we can’t make it, the ambulance can’t make it. This is why war causes far more casualties (than those killed in combat). This is a number that cannot be calculated.”