Since the beginning of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the Defense Ministry of the aggressor country has repeatedly denied the destruction of civilian infrastructure. Russia states that in Ukraine, they fire only at military facilities and do not launch any missile, air, or artillery strikes on cities and villages. But, we can see from the beginning of the war that this is not the case. Russian troops are shelling residential areas, schools, hospitals, maternity hospitals, kindergartens, cultural monuments, etc. And these aren’t one-off incidents; such attacks are common.
Ukrainian cities are being shelled from the territory of Russia, Belarus, the temporarily occupied Crimea and Donbas, as well as from the Black Sea. In the war with Ukraine, Russia uses a vast arsenal of weapons: bombs, missiles, onboard weapons of aircraft and helicopters, and various artillery (grads, tanks, mortars, etc.). According to the Pentagon, at the end of the fourth week of the war, Russia fired more than 1,200 missiles at the territory of Ukraine. The Ministry of Defense of Ukraine recorded the launch of 467 missiles at Ukrainian settlements. This difference in data is since up to 60% of the missiles fired do not hit the target. They fly to places where the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine could not detect them.
Russia mainly uses the 3M-54 Kalibr sea-launched cruise missiles and the 9K720 Iskander land-based ballistic missiles. “Kalibr” has a very high speed and a powerful warhead and can hit objects at a distance of up to 2500 km. These missiles can hit both ships and submarines and ground objects, including civilian ones (Freedomarkiv, the area near Obukhiv, etc.). The Iskander, despite its shorter range, is a more powerful weapon than the Kalibr and can potentially carry nuclear warheads. With Iskanders, the enemy attacked residential areas in Kharkiv, Zhytomyr, Kyiv, and others.
Russia has no qualms about using prohibited weapons under international conventions, such as phosphorus or cluster bombs. Phosphorous bombs cause severe and painful injuries. As a result of their explosion, the fire spreads over a large area and is difficult to extinguish. Phosphorous bombs of the Russian Federation were recorded in Irpin and Kramatorsk. Cluster bombs are made up of hundreds of tiny explosive warheads that may be launched over a large area. Some cluster bombs do not explode immediately and remain on the ground, carrying a threat of explosion in the future. Bellingcat’s investigators recorded the use of these weapons near schools, hospitals, and residential areas of Kharkiv, near Odesa and Kherson.
Russians bomb medical facilities
The Ukrainian Health Center informs that during the month of a full-scale war, at least 97 medical institutions have already been shelled (8 of them were destroyed). The Kyiv region suffered the most: the Russian military fired at 21 medical institutions there. Seventeen cases were recorded in the Kharkiv region and 14 in the Luhansk region. At least 36 medical workers have already been injured and 11 killed.
Russian shells hitting medical facilities are not accidental. The shelling of Mariupol’s Maternity and Children’s Hospitals on March 9 proves this. And although the representative of the Russian Defense Ministry denied this airstrike, its foreign minister Lavrov acknowledged this bombing by the Russian army. He argued that the base of the Azov Battalion was allegedly located in the Maternity Hospital.
However, a photo from the Maternity Hospital, which was bombed out, shows women in labor, hospital staff, and children. One of them showed a pregnant girl on a stretcher. This photo was spread to the world media. The woman died along with her unborn child a few days later. In addition to these victims, at least three people were killed in the shelling, including one girl, and there were also 17 victims. Now Mariupol is under blockade and is in a humanitarian catastrophe.
Russian invaders shelled a hospital in Vasylivka on the south of Zaporizhzhia. The aggressor damaged the surgical and sanitary departments. As a result, at least three people were killed, and four were seriously injured. The hospital staff continues to provide medical care to the Vasylivka community’s residents, although the hospital cannot work as it used to.
The Russian military fired at the Oskil psychoneurological boarding school in the Kharkiv region. There were 330 people at the time of the bombardment. The majority of them were elderly or disabled. There were no injuries, as everyone was in hiding during the shelling.
Another psychoneurological boarding school came under an artillery strike by the invaders in Pushcha Voditsa. There were no injuries, and the boarding school’s wards and employees were evacuated to a safe place.
In Kyiv, a cruise missile was shot down over the Okhmatdyt children’s hospital. There were no injuries.
The Mykolaiv Regional Cancer Hospital also came under fire from the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation. According to the head of the Regional Health Department, Maksym Beznosenko, the shelling did not cause much damage to the building.
— If Russia sees cancer patients as an equal opponent who poses a threat, it is not just a disease. It is already in agony. And this is the only thing that can please us in such circumstances.
Russians bomb educational institutions
On the fourth week of the war in Ukraine, as a result of artillery and rocket-air attacks, more than 70 educational institutions were destroyed, and more than 490 were damaged. The Ministry of Education and Science provides these numbers. To record data on destroyed and damaged educational institutions, the Ministry of Education and Science has created a website where all the information is collected. Minister of education and science of Ukraine Serhii Shkarlet notes:
— It turns out that the Russian leadership is afraid of our children and parents. They are scared not only of our brave and robust military, but also of teachers and scientists. Yes, we are strong. We will definitely win and rebuild our educational institutions.
Most of the damaged educational institutions are in the Donetsk region (more than 140), as well as in Kyiv, Mykolaiv and Zhytomyr (more than 40 in each). And in Kharkiv, about 50 educational institutions have already been destroyed. Furthermore, more than 60 educational institutions were destroyed in the capital solely.
Many schools are being destroyed by Russian missiles. So, during another Russian attack, a missile smashed half of School No. 25 in Zhytomyr. In Vasylkiv, Kyiv region, one of the missiles hit a boarding school. Also, as a result of a Russian missile strike, a school in the city of Merefa in the Kharkiv region was destroyed.
In addition, many schools come under air bombardment by the Russian occupiers. In the village of Zelenyi Hai in the Mykolaiv region, due to an aerial bomb hit, the building caught fire and collapsed. As a result of the shelling, seven people were killed and three were injured. Another aerial bomb was dropped by the Russian invaders on the art school No. 12 in Mariupol. The building was destroyed, and civilians were trapped under the rubble. About 400 Mariupol residents were hiding there — women, children, and the elderly. Information about the number of victims is being clarified.
Russian ammunition destroys more than just schools. The building of the Karazin National University in Kharkiv came under fire. Because of this, two campuses of the higher educational institution were damaged. From the explosion, the shock wave blew off the windows on the facade of the building. There were no injuries among the people. In Chernihiv, the enemy army fired at one of the Chernihiv Polytechnics National University campuses.
In the city of Izium (Kharkiv region), which is currently experiencing a humanitarian catastrophe, Russian invaders shelled, among other targets, an evening school. Now it remains a complete ruin.
As a result of a missile and airstrike on Chernihiv, kindergarten No. 72 was damaged. The rocket hit the second floor of the building, in the bedroom of one of the groups. There were no casualties since children had not attended kindergarten since the beginning of the war. Shelling by Russian invaders also destroyed a kindergarten in Severodonetsk (Luhansk region). Its roof was destroyed, and the heating network was broken.
Responsibility for the destruction of civilian objects
During a full-scale war, we have witnessed how Russia deliberately and systematically violates the norms of international humanitarian law by committing war crimes. Article 25 of the Convention on the Laws and Customs of War on Land is grossly violated by the Russians. It prohibits attacking or bombing unprotected cities, towns, residential buildings, or structures. During a month of full-scale war, as a result of constant shelling in Kharkiv, more than 900 residential buildings were destroyed. In Mariupol, more than 80% of the city’s infrastructure was destroyed or damaged. And these numbers continue to grow.
Furthermore, Russia is one of the 190 countries that have ratified the Geneva Conventions on the Protection of Victims of War. These are four interconnected treaties that prohibit the use of violence in armed conflicts.
The Russian Federation violates Article 18 of the Geneva Convention on their protection by shelling hospitals. Innocent people who do not receive timely and full-fledged medical care suffer and die from this.
The Russian Federation violates Additional Protocol I to the Geneva Conventions by killing civilians, which ensures respect and protection of the civilian population and facilities. At the end of the third week of the war, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) recorded 2,149 civilian deaths or injuries in Ukraine: 816 dead and 1,333 wounded. As of March 25, 135 children were killed and more than 184 injured due to military operations. But these data are not final, as it is difficult to get information from places that are actively shelled by the enemy army and temporarily occupied territories.
Article 3 of the convention for the protection of Civilian Persons guarantees humane treatment of persons who do not participate in hostilities. The Russian army also violates this. It uses violence and intimidation in the temporarily occupied territories, starves and freezes people, or simply shoots unarmed people, not allowing the bodies of the dead to be taken away and buried, and so on. There are also reports in the media about the rape of Ukrainian women by Russian soldiers in the occupied territories. The prosecutor general’s office is already beginning to register them: the Russian serviceman was given the first suspect of rape.
Article 47 of the IV Convention on the Laws and Customs of Land Warfare prohibits looting. Article 28 of the same convention prohibits looting in a city, even if it is taken by storm. Since the first days of the war, Russian soldiers have been robbing bank branches, grocery stores, etc. Looting among the Russian military is gaining unprecedented proportions. In telephone conversations with their relatives, which are recorded by Ukrainian intelligence, Russians brag about stolen goods in Ukraine.
It isn’t the first time this has happened. Russia’s war crimes in other countries
It is not the first time that Russia has committed such crimes. The Russian military’s unique cruelty was recalled throughout the second Chechen war, which lasted from 1999 until 2009. At that time, the Russian army was particularly merciless towards the civilian population. It staged shootings, bombed residential areas, raped and killed women after that, and looted settlements several times. Purging of settlements was carried out: as a result of one of them, 56 civilians were shot in the village of Novye Aldy and adjacent areas of the city of Groznyi. During the second Chechen war, safe humanitarian corridors for the evacuation of civilians were completely absent. The Russian military fired artillery and launched missiles and bomb attacks on them. During the war, more than 125 thousand civilians were killed.
Photo: Chris Hondros.
During the 2008 Russo-Georgian war, Russian soldiers also committed war crimes. Among them are deliberate shelling of populated areas, destruction of civilian infrastructure, inhumane treatment of the civilian population, mockery of prisoners of war, and destruction of Georgia’s cultural heritage. This five-day conflict took the lives of 850 people and injured almost 2,000 more.
In 2015, the Russian Federation intervened in the war in Syria, taking the side of Bashar al-Assad. Its goal was to keep power in the hands of a tyrant. The Assad regime and its ally Russia have practiced a deliberate strategy of encircling, besieging, and blocking civilians’ access to medicines, food, necessities, and humanitarian aid. Then the Russian army launched airstrikes on civilians and civilian infrastructure. The territories of Syria not controlled by Bashar al-Assad suffered from this. To increase civilian casualties, Russia used the practice of a “double blow.” After the first attack, the Russian military waited for rescuers and caring people to come to the aid of the victims. Then they dealt a second blow to those people. The Russian army deliberately attacked hospitals and other civilian facilities. In total, at the end of 2017, observers counted 817 attacks by the Russian military on vital civilian facilities, including 141 cases of attacks on medical institutions. As of the end of 2017, more than five thousand civilians were killed due to the actions of Russian servicemen.
“Responsibility for war crimes is inevitable for the Russian military,” Volodymyr Zelenskyi stressed in one of his appeals. The prosecutor general’s office has already documented thousands of war crimes committed by the Russian army in Ukraine and opened criminal proceedings on them. Ukraine has created a website where you can submit evidence of a war crime by documenting it. They will be used to bring Russia to justice in the International Criminal Court in The Hague.
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