Mariupol midwife: 'They are not liberating us. It’s murder, plain and simple'

Having spent 40 years bringing life into the world as a midwife, Tetyana describes how she has seen too much death since Russia's invasion. ITV News' Rebecca Barry reports

The emotion brims in Tetyana’s eyes as she begins to tell me about her job in Mariupol.

She has spent 40 years as a midwife, helping to bring new life into the world - but in recent months she’s witnessed too much death.

Tetyana Sokolova is now a refugee in Lviv, where I meet her.

She shows me a photograph of herself in uniform holding a newborn baby. It was taken on 24 February 2022 - the day Russia invaded and everything changed.

“You can't say that they are liberating us. That’s not accurate, it was murder, plain and simple. It was execution, such a brutal execution.”

On her phone she plays a video showing a dark and dusty basement. As the camera pans you can hear newborn babies crying, their mothers look weak and scared.

It’s the basement of a maternity hospital in Mariupol, where Tetyana spent almost two months helping to deliver 27 babies, during constant Russian bombardment. 

She describes how cold basement was, how unsuitable for women giving birth, with a lack of equipment, medication or even basics like baby formula.

She says Russian journalists arrived claiming they’d all been “liberated”, at this she looks suddenly angry.

“They came and started telling her that ‘the Russians have come to liberate her.’

Then tears run down her cheeks as she tells me: “I am so thankful to God that I was there to help those girls. That God put us together to support each other in that basement."

On 9 March 2022 Russia bombed a different maternity hospital in Mariupol.

The images of bleeding pregnant women shocked many around the world.

ITV News Europe Editor James Mates reports on the devastating impacts of the Russian airstrike that struck a maternity hospital

This video contains distressing images

Tetyana tells me that one of those injured women was rushed to her team - where they tried desperately to save the baby, under the most primitive of conditions.

They carried out a caesarian in the dark basement, as her son held up two mobile phones for light.

“My son, he stood motionless for two hours, holding two phones with his hands, like this. He was pale and sweaty - his hands went numb but he didn’t lower them.“

The woman survived, but her baby boy didn’t.

As her son who held up two mobile phones for light, Tetyana carried out a caesarean in the dark basement.

“They came and started telling her that ‘the Russians have come to liberate her.’

"They have liberated her from what? From her house, her child, her happiness, her joy.

"They have killed her. Physically, she will be fine - but inside she is burnt, just like Mariupol.”

This is the first time Tetyana has spoken publicly about what happened in that Mariupol basement - but she wants the world to listen.

She’s now working with a charity, Future For Children Foundation, to support the children of Mariupol. Irina Pysarenko is from the organisation.

Irina Pysarenko describes the "evil" which has "come to" Ukraine

“Evil has come to our land, war has come here," she says.

"And no one is protected less than children. It’s not their fault that they have been born into such a violent world.”

Tetyana doesn’t know what happened to all the women and babies that she helped in that basement, they were taken away on buses by Russian forces. But she insists that one day she will find each one of them.