LVIV, Ukraine – Laid out in rank and file under the midday sun, 109 empty prams and baby baskets haunt the market square of the city of Lviv in western Ukraine.

In this picture taken on March 18, 2022, 109 empty prams and baby baskets are seen placed outside the Lviv city council during an action to highlight the number of children killed in the ongoing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Yuriy Dyachyshyn / AFP

This is the number of children Ukraine says have been killed since Russia launched its invasion on February 24.

There are car seats for infants and strollers with covered hoods, line after line after line, next to a statue boxed and clad with shining corrugated metal — protection from air strikes.

Kateryna Bandzhanova, 29, walks past pushing her 11-month-old daughter Solomia in a pushchair.

For a moment it is the only occupied baby carriage on the whole cobbled square.

“I feel completely in pain,” she told AFP, trying and failing to hold back tears. “Pain for the future of the country because children are the future.

“When they kill children, they kill the future of this country — its heart and its soul.”

At the edge of the cordoned installation, organised by the Ukrainian government, a printed placard says 108 children have died.

But in felt marker pen the eight has been hastily crossed out and replaced with a nine.

The death toll was out of date not long after being printed.

– Kids in crosshairs –
Since Russia announced a “special military operation” three weeks ago, there have been numerous strikes on civilian targets housing children.

Last week a maternity hospital in the besieged port city of Mariupol was bombed, wounding 17.

On Wednesday a theatre there was hit despite signs declaring children were sheltering inside.

More than 130 have been saved from the rubble but officials said up to 1,000 may have been taking refuge within.

Ukraine says shelling and air strikes have damaged 439 “educational institutions”, 63 of which have been razed to the ground.

Many families fleeing conflict in the eastern portion of Ukraine have fled to the west.

The city of Lviv — usually home to 700,000 — has swollen with refugees bound for the Polish border and displaced citizens hoping to wait out the conflict in relative safety.

Bandzhanova, a business analyst, left her home in Boryspil near the largest airport in the capital of Kyiv for fears it would be targeted.

But in the dawn hours of Friday an aircraft repair plant was struck near Lviv’s airport.

A thick pall of smoke hung above the city’s southwest skyline for much of the morning.

“At night when you hear sirens you wake up, each small sound makes you flinch,” she said.

“Maybe I need to flee with my kids somewhere further away.”