Russia uses cluster bombs to kill Ukrainian civilians, analysis finds | Ukraine

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Russian troops have used a number of weapons widely banned around the world, which have killed hundreds of civilians in Ukraine’s kyiv region, according to research by the Guardian.

Evidence collected during a visit to Bucha, Hostomel and Borodianka, where Russian occupiers were accused of atrocities against residents, showed that Russian troops used cluster munitions, cluster bombs and extremely powerful unguided bombs in populated areas, which destroyed at least eight civilian buildings.

Bellingcat, a non-profit online journalism collective dedicated to war crimes investigations, which reviewed some of the photos collected by the Guardian, confirmed the presence of RBK-500 cluster bomb tail fins with cluster munitions PTAB-1M and fragmentation rocket, launched by BM-30 Smertch.

Russia has repeatedly denied targeting civilians and said Ukrainian and Western war crimes allegations were concocted.

Tail fins of an RBK-500 cluster bomb, post-deployment, submunition type unknown found at Borodyanka. Photo: Courtesy of Kyiv Regional Prosecutor’s Office

However, Russia’s withdrawal from areas of the Kyiv region it occupied until early April has also revealed signs of cluster munitions on wrecked cars, streets, civilian buildings and dead bodies. . Cluster munitions, banned by most of the world under a 2008 treaty called the Convention on Cluster Munitions, were dropped in areas where there were no military personnel or infrastructure military.

Cluster bombs are designed to release dozens of smaller bomblets, called submunitions, over a wide area, but the smaller munitions do not always explode, posing a future risk to civilians. The bombs were banned under international law by the 2008 treaty, which was signed by more than 100 countries – but not Russia or Ukraine.

According to the New York Times, Ukrainian troops used a cluster bomb in early March in Husarivka, a village in the east of the country that they were trying to retake.

Tail fins of an RBK-500 cluster bomb with PTAB-1M submunitions.
Tail fins of an RBK-500 cluster bomb with PTAB-1M submunitions. Photo: Courtesy of Kyiv Regional Prosecutor’s Office

The wreckage of dozens of cars in Bucha and Borodianka, seen and photographed by the Guardian and examined by experts, show the characteristic holes caused by cluster bomb submunitions used by the Russian military. The use of cluster bombs and cluster munitions has also been widely reported in other parts of Ukraine. On April 4, as a team from Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) entered an oncology hospital in Mykolaiv, in south-eastern Ukraine, several explosions took place near the staff.

Buildings and cars destroyed in Bucha.
Buildings and cars destroyed in Bucha. Photography: Alessio Mamo/The Guardian

“No large crater was visible,” read an MSF statement. “Following the explosions, our team saw many small holes in the ground, scattered over a wide area. These elements could be compatible with the use of cluster bombs.

The Guardian found a Russian cluster rocket used to support cluster munitions near a farming village in Hostomel believed to have been launched by a BM-30 Smerch.

Much of this evidence on the use of these types of internationally banned weapons has been collected by Ukrainian prosecutors and will soon be handed over to the International Criminal Court (ICC), which has opened an investigation into possible war crimes. , or crimes against humanity, in Ukraine.

“Russia applies prohibited means and methods of warfare – in particular, it uses prohibited munitions, cluster bombs and artillery cluster munitions,” said Oleh Tkalenko, deputy chief prosecutor of the Kyiv region. .

“In the city of Borodianka, during its occupation, cluster munitions of the Smerch system were used, which is prohibited. Apart from this, civilian objects were bombed with FAB-250 bombs (this information was provided by specialists). Eight buildings were destroyed.

A residential building in Borodyanka reportedly destroyed by a Russian FAB-250, a 250-kilogram dropped bomb of highly imprecise Soviet design.
A residential building in Borodyanka reportedly destroyed by a Russian FAB-250, a 250-kilogram dropped bomb of highly imprecise Soviet design. Photography: Alessio Mamo/The Guardian

The FAB-250 is a 250 kg drop bomb of highly imprecise Soviet design, widely used by the Soviet Union in its war in Afghanistan and by the Russian Federation in Syria. FAB-250s descend in free fall from aircraft and were exclusively designed to strike military targets, such as the destruction of enemy fortified installations, surface fortifications, such as depots storing certain equipment, or bunkers.

Although Russia claims it is trying to destroy military targets, evidence collected or reviewed by the Guardian and independently verified by weapons experts shows that these bombs were dropped on residential buildings and civilian infrastructure. A residential building in Borodianka that housed hundreds of civilians was hit by an FAB-250 and was gutted and split into two pieces. Most of the inhabitants died.

The bodies of civilians allegedly killed by the Russians at Borodyanka.  Fragments of cluster munitions are found in bodies dug up in the region and classified by medical examiners.
The bodies of civilians allegedly killed by the Russians at Borodyanka. Fragments of cluster munitions are found in bodies dug up in the region and classified by medical examiners. Photography: Alessio Mamo/The Guardian

“You don’t need to be a weapons expert to understand that Russia ignored the rules of war in Bucha,” said Bucha Mayor Anatoliy Fedoruk. “Bucha was turned into a Chechen safari, where they used landmines against civilians.”

An official employee of the kyiv prosecutor’s office confirmed: “There are many cases in Bucha and Irpin where they leave the mines in private homes.”

Ammunition fragments found in Russian-affected areas.  According to officials, some of these fragments were found in the corpses of civilians.
Ammunition fragments found in Russian-affected areas. According to officials, some of these fragments were found in the corpses of civilians. Photo: Courtesy of Kyiv Regional Prosecutor’s Office

Tkalenko said forensic scientists were analyzing every body found in mass graves, on the streets, in basements or buried in rubble, and that fragments of cluster bombs and cluster munitions had been found. .

“Small objects are found in the bodies,” Tkalenko said. “So the process is organized like this: the bodies are dug up, the medical examiners are appointed and the experts work on it. I cannot give more specific information, because thousands of reports are being written, everything is collected and will be filed.

“All types of ammunition will be classified. We are preparing for [a future war crimes investigation at] The Hague. Thus, this work is done by two specialists: one finds the objects, another takes them out and designates the expertise. A prosecutor’s job is to make sure the law is followed.

“What I can tell you is that in 20 years of my career, I have never seen such horrors, as I have seen from February 24 until now, and never have I have seen such horrible events,” Tkalenko added. “War is very scary. That’s all.”

Additional reporting by Dan Sabbagh


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