Russia came under fire at the UN Security Council on Tuesday for conducting "systemic attacks" on Ukraine's medical facilities after a wave of deadly strikes across the country.

President Volodymyr Zelensky said 38 people across Ukraine were killed – including four children – and 190 wounded in the wave of nearly 40 missiles that targeted several towns and cities on Monday, damaging a children's hospital.

"Intentionally directing attacks against a protected hospital is a war crime and perpetrators must be held to account," Joyce Msuya, acting under-secretary for humanitarian affairs, told the emergency meeting.

"These incidents are part of a deeply concerning pattern of systemic attacks harming healthcare and other civilian infrastructure across Ukraine," Msuya added.

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Kyiv said a children's hospital was struck by a Russian cruise missile with components produced in NATO member countries.

First responders found children receiving cancer treatment laying in hospital beds that had been hastily set up in parks and on sidewalks after they were evacuated from the affected facilities, Msuya said.

Kyiv's UN envoy Sergiy Kyslytsya said Moscow "deliberately targeted perhaps the most vulnerable and defenseless group in any society," showing council members what he said was evidence a Russian cruise missile targeted the children's hospital.

Representing Ukraine's leading ally, the United States, envoy Linda Thomas-Greenfield called the strikes "chilling."

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"Yesterday's attack makes abundantly clear (Russian President Vladimir) Putin is not interested in peace. He's committed to wreaking death and destruction in pursuit of his war of aggression," Thomas-Greenfield said.

Britain's envoy to the UN Barbara Woodward called Russia's attacks "cowardly depravity," while France's envoy Nicolas de Riviere said "Russia has deliberately targeted residential neighborhoods and healthcare infrastructure." 

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“Another low”

China, which has long called for a negotiated settlement between Russia and Ukraine, said that both sides should "show political will, meet each other halfway and start peace talks at an early date."

"China will continue to actively promote peace talks," said Beijing's envoy Fu Cong.

Russia again insisted the damage to medical facilities was caused by Ukrainian air defenses and its envoy to the United Nations, Vasily Nebenzya, called the issue of the strikes on Ukraine "not a very gratifying topic."

"If this had been a Russian strike, there would have been nothing left of the building and all the children and most of the adults would have been killed and not wounded," he said.

"We really regret that the Council has been drawn into this dirty propaganda campaign of Kyiv," Nebenzya added.

However, Danielle Bell, head of the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine, earlier said there was a "high likelihood" that the children's hospital in Kyiv suffered "a direct hit" from a missile launched by Russia.

Russia currently holds the rotating presidency of the Security Council and, as a permanent member of the UN's top security body, wields a veto which it has used to thwart efforts to censure its war.

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It initially appeared that Russia would seek to block Ukraine from participating in Tuesday's meeting after Nebenzya said Kyiv had not correctly formatted its letter requesting to participate.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres described the deadly Russian strikes in Ukraine as "particularly shocking," his spokesman said.

Zelensky has been urging allies to bolster Ukrainian air defense systems and was expected to renew those calls as a NATO summit kicked off later Tuesday in Washington.

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