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Ukraine: Russian military have carried out indiscriminate attacks - new expert analysis

A resident outside his destroyed building after airstrikes on the eastern Ukraine town of Chuguiv yesterday © AFP via Getty Images

Forensic analysis of three separate attacks provides ‘irrefutable evidence’ of breaches of laws of war

Likely Russian veto on UN Security Council should be countered by emergency meeting of UN General Assembly

‘Some of these attacks may be war crimes’ - Agnès Callamard

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has included indiscriminate attacks on civilian areas and strikes on protected objects such as hospitals, Amnesty International said today, after documenting three incidents it believes have killed at least six civilians and injured at least 12 more.

Indiscriminate attacks violate international humanitarian law (the laws of war) and can constitute war crimes.   

Amnesty’s Crisis Evidence Lab analysed digital evidence - including photos, videos and satellite imagery - from three attacks carried out in the early hours of yesterday’s invasion. The attacks occurred in Vuhledar, Kharkiv and Uman. 

In the deadliest of these strikes, at approximately 10.30am local time, a ballistic missile struck near a hospital building in Vuhledar in the Donetsk region in eastern Ukraine, killing four civilians and wounding ten more. According to a local source who spoke to Amnesty researchers, two women and two men were killed, and six healthcare workers were among the injured. 

Analysing photos of the weapon scrap linked to the incident, Amnesty’s weapons investigator has determined that a 9M79 Tochka ballistic missile was used in the attack. These weapons are extremely inaccurate, regularly missing their targets by half a mile and should never be used in populated areas. 

Another of the attacks was carried out at approximately 8am local time in the Kharkiv region, in northeastern Ukraine. The likely target was the nearby Chuhuiv Air Base, but instead a residential block was struck - causing extensive fire damage, apparently killing at least one civilian, and injuring at least two further civilians. A single large crater in the ground between apartment buildings indicates the weapon was most likely a single large missile or rocket. 

In another attack at 7am in Uman in the Cherkasy region, a civilian appears to have been killed by a strike that also damaged a nearby restaurant.  

Amnesty believes its verification of the use of these indiscriminate attacks by Russian forces in their initial military operations in the Ukrainian invasion provides irrefutable evidence of violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law.  

The United Nations Security Council is scheduled to meet later today to discuss the situation and Russia is expected to veto any resolution put forward by other member states. Amnesty is therefore calling for an emergency meeting of the UN General Assembly.  

Agnès Callamard, Amnesty International’s Secretary General, said: 

“The Russian military has shown a blatant disregard for civilian lives by using ballistic missiles and other explosive weapons with wide-area effects in densely-populated areas. Some of these attacks may be war crimes.

“The continuation of the use of ballistic missiles and other inaccurate explosive weapons causing civilian deaths and injuries is inexcusable.

“The Russian government, which falsely claims to use only precision-guided weapons, should take responsibility for these acts. 

“We call on the UN General Assembly to meet in an emergency session and adopt a resolution denouncing Russia’s unlawful attacks and calling for an end to all violations of humanitarian law and human rights. 

“If the Security Council is paralysed through veto, it is up to the entire membership to step up.”

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