Ukraine. Hundreds killed in relentless Russian shelling of Kharkiv
Hundreds of civilians have been killed in the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv by Russian indiscriminate shelling using widely banned cluster munitions and inherently inaccurate rockets, Amnesty International said today.
A new report, “Anyone can die at any time”: Indiscriminate attacks by Russian forces in Kharkiv, Ukraine, documents how Russian forces have caused widespread death and destruction by relentlessly bombarding residential neighborhoods in Kharkiv since their invasion began in late February.
During an in-depth investigation, Amnesty International found evidence that Russian forces repeatedly used 9N210/9N235 cluster munitions as well as scatterable mines, both of which are subject to international treaty bans due to their blind effects.
“People in Kharkiv have faced a barrage of indiscriminate attacks in recent months, which have killed and injured hundreds of civilians,” said Donatella Rovera, Senior Crisis Response Adviser at Amnesty International.
“People have been killed in their homes and on the streets, on playgrounds and in cemeteries, as they queued for humanitarian aid or bought food and medicine.
“The repeated use of widely banned cluster munitions is shocking and another indication of utter disregard for civilian life. The Russian forces responsible for these horrific attacks must be held accountable for their actions, and the victims and their families must receive full reparations.
The director of the medical service of the Kharkiv regional military administration told Amnesty International that 606 civilians had been killed and 1,248 injured in the Kharkiv region since the start of the conflict.
Although Russia is neither a party to the Convention on Cluster Munitions or the Convention on anti-personnel mines, international humanitarian law prohibits indiscriminate attacks and the use of weapons that are inherently indiscriminate. Launching indiscriminate attacks resulting in the death or injury of civilians, or damage to civilian objects, constitutes war crimes.
Residents of Kharkiv have faced a relentless barrage of indiscriminate attacks in recent months, which have killed and injured hundreds of civilians
Donatella Rovera, Senior Crisis Response Adviser at Amnesty International
The bombardment of Kharkiv, home to 1.5 million people, began on February 24 when the Russian invasion of Ukraine began. The residential areas in the north and east of the city were the most affected by the bombardments.
On the afternoon of April 15, Russian forces fired cluster munitions in and around Myru Street in the Industrialni neighborhood. At least nine civilians were killed and more than 35 injured, including several children. Doctors at Clinical Hospital 25 in the city of Kharkiv showed Amnesty International metal fragments they had removed from patients’ bodies, including the distinctive pieces of steel rods contained in cluster munitions 9N210/9N235. .
Tetiana Ahayeva, a 53-year-old nurse, was standing outside the entrance to her building when several cluster bombs exploded. She told Amnesty International: “There was a sudden sound of firecrackers everywhere, lots, everywhere. I saw puffs of black smoke where the explosions occurred. We fell to the ground and tried to find shelter. Our neighbour’s son, a 16-year-old boy named Artem Shevchenko, was killed instantly… His father had a broken hip and shrapnel in his leg. It is difficult to say how long the explosions lasted; a minute can seem like an eternity.
At a nearby playground, Oksana Litvynyenko, 41, suffered devastating injuries when several cluster bombs exploded while she was walking with her husband Ivan and their four-year-old daughter. Shrapnel penetrated his back, chest and abdomen, puncturing his lungs and spine. She tragically passed away on June 11. The strike took place in the middle of the afternoon, when many other families were at the playground with their children.
Ivan told Amnesty International on April 26: “All of a sudden I saw a flash… I grabbed my daughter and pushed her against the tree and hugged the tree. arms, so that she is protected between the tree and my body. There was a lot of smoke and I couldn’t see anything… Then, as the smoke around me subsided, I saw people on the ground… my wife Oksana was lying on the ground. When my daughter saw her mum on the ground in a pool of blood, she said to me: “Let’s go home: mum is dead and the people are dead”. She was in shock and so was I. I still don’t know if my wife will recover; doctors cannot say if she will be able to speak or walk again. Our world has been turned upside down. »
After more than a month in intensive care, Oksana’s condition improved slightly, but she died of her injuries on June 11. Amnesty International researchers found the fins, metal pellets and other characteristic fragments of the 9N210/9N235 cluster munitions on the playing field. Several small craters in the concrete floor were also visible, consistent damage expected from the explosion of such ammunition.
All of a sudden I saw a lightning… I grabbed my daughter and pushed her against the tree and I hugged the tree, so that she was protected between the tree and my body
Ivan Litvynyenko, survivor of playground attack.
HUMANITARIAN STRIKE IN THE QUEUE
At least six people were killed and 15 were injured on the morning of March 24, when cluster munitions hit a parking lot near Akademika Pavlova metro station where hundreds of people were queuing to receive food. humanitarian aid.
Valeriia Kolyshkina, a sales assistant at a pet store near the scene of the strike, said a man was killed when the blasts tore through the glass front of a nearby store.
She told Amnesty International: “A man was killed right outside the store. He was standing outside smoking while his wife was buying pet food…Shards of metal flew through the front window, flying over my head as I was behind the counter. Then there were several more explosions. It was total panic. The store was full of people. We ran to the storage room at the back of the store for protection. It was very scary…I thought I was going to die.
Ruslan*, a local policeman who witnessed the attack, said: “It was really a horrible situation, shrapnel was falling like rain.”
Amnesty International researchers have discovered parts of a 220mm Uragan rocket, which carries 30 submunitions, still embedded in a tarmac crater. Around the area, they also found fins and fragments of the 9N210/9N235 cluster munitions, and several other craters.
Two other cluster munitions also hit the roof of Holy Trinity Church, about 500 meters from where the rocket landed. The church serves as a humanitarian hub where volunteers prepare food and aid packages to distribute to people who have difficulty accessing humanitarian aid distribution points, such as the elderly and people with disabilities and mobility. scaled down. Pastor Petro Loboiko and Pastor Serhii Andreiivich showed Amnesty International shrapnel from two cluster munitions that had penetrated the walls and doors of the church after exploding on the roof.
It was total panic. The store was full of people. We ran to the storage room at the back of the store for protection. It was very scary…i thought i was going to die
Valeriia Kolyshkina, saleswoman in a pet store near the strike site.
On the afternoon of March 12, 30-year-old logistics manager and mother Veronica Cherevychko lost her right leg when a Grad rocket hit a playground in front of her house in the Saltivka neighborhood.
She told Amnesty International: “I was sitting on this bench when the explosion happened. I remember hearing a whistle just before the explosion. Then I woke up in the hospital, without a leg; my right leg was gone. Now my life is divided into before March 12 and after March 12. I’ll get used to this. Now, I’m not used to it yet; I often try to touch my leg, scratch my foot…I don’t know what to say about [the] the people who made it. I will never understand them.
Three people were killed and six injured when a series of cluster munitions exploded in the same neighborhood on the morning of April 26. Olena Sorokina, a 57-year-old cancer survivor, lost both her legs in the blast. She was sitting outside her building waiting for a delivery of humanitarian aid when she heard the sound of a flying shell and ran towards the entrance of the building.
Olena passed out, then woke up in an ambulance to find she had lost a leg. She was taken to hospital, where her other leg also had to be amputated. She is now in western Ukraine, hoping to be transferred to a rehabilitation center elsewhere in Europe. Olena told Amnesty International: “After the battle with cancer, I now have to face another battle to learn how to function without legs.
Unguided rockets – such as the Grads and Uragans, which have been used regularly by Russian forces – are inherently inaccurate, rendering them indiscriminate when used in populated areas. Unguided artillery shells have a margin of error of over 100 meters. In residential areas where buildings are only a few meters apart, such inaccuracies are virtually certain to cost civilian lives and cause widespread destruction and damage to civilian infrastructure.
Ukrainian forces, for their part, often launched strikes from residential neighborhoods, endangering civilians in those areas. Such a practice violates international humanitarian law, but in no way justifies the repeated indiscriminate strikes by Russian forces.
i don’t know what to say about [the] the people who made it. I will never understand them
Veronica Cherevychko, a 30-year-old logistics manager who lost her right leg.
Amnesty International researchers investigated 41 strikes (which killed at least 62 people and injured at least 196) and interviewed 160 people in Kharkiv over 14 days in April and May, including survivors of attacks, relatives of victims, witnesses and doctors who treated the injured. . The organization’s researchers collected and analyzed physical evidence at the scene of the strikes, including fragments of ammunition, as well as an array of digital documents.
All Amnesty International documentation on violations of human rights and international humanitarian law committed during the war in Ukraine is available here.