White House press secretary Jen Psaki describes a Russian airstrike that devastated a maternity hospital Wednesday in the besieged port city of Mariupol as “horrifying.”
Watch Psaki’s remarks in the player above.
The airstrike wounded at least 17 people, Ukrainian officials said, amid growing warnings from the West that Moscow’s invasion is about to take a more brutal and indiscriminate turn.
Police and soldiers rushed to scene to evacuate victims, carrying out a heavily pregnant and bleeding woman on a stretcher. Another woman wailed as she clutched her child. In the courtyard, mangled cars burned, and a blast crater extended at least two stories deep.
Psaki welcomed news that the Venezuelan government had freed two jailed Americans, including an oil executive imprisoned alongside colleagues for more than four years.
Gustavo Cardenas was released following a secret weekend visit to Venezuela by senior Biden administration officials, the first White House trip to the county in more than two decades. Also freed was Jorge Alberto Fernandez, who was arrested last year on what the White House described as “spurious charges.”
READ MORE: Airstrike hits Ukraine maternity hospital, 17 reported injured
“These men are fathers who lost precious time with their children and everyone they love, and their families have suffered every day of their absence,” President Joe Biden said in a statement.
The release came hours after Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro signaled an interest in improving relations at a time when Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has sparked concerns in the United States over rising gas prices.
US officials have not detailed any other specific outcomes of the talks, but said the release reflected months of relationship-building, particularly involving Roger Carstens, the administration’s special presidential envoy for hostage affairs.
Psaki also slammed a decision by Florida lawmakers to pass a bill that forbids instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity in kindergarten through third grade. The proposal, which opponents have dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, now moves to the desk of Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is expected to sign it into law.
“It’s a form of bullying,” Psaki said. “I think the most important question now is why are Florida leaders deciding they need to discriminate against kids who are members of the LGBTQI community?”
Since its inception, the measure has drawn intense criticism from LGBTQ advocates, students, national Democrats, the White House and the entertainment industry, amid increased attention on Florida as Republicans push culture war legislation and DeSantis ascends in the GOP as a potential 2024 presidential candidate .