Anyone can die at any time: Indiscriminate attacks by Russian forces in Kharkiv, Ukraine


References

1 “У Харкові чутно вибухи” (Explosions can be heard in Kharkiv), Тетяна Федоркова, 24 February 2022,

2 Amnesty International previously documented a number of indiscriminate Russian strikes on populated areas of Kharkiv that took place in March and late February. See Amnesty International, “Ukraine: Russia’s cruel siege warfare tactics unlawfully killing civilians – new testimony and investigation,” 1 April 2022.

3 Shelling of the city almost stopped at the end of April, when Russian forces were pushed back towards the Russian border. See: “Ukraine war: Russia pushed back from Kharkiv – report from front line”; BBC 11 May 2022; However, sporadic attacks have continued, including a devastating attack on 26 May which reportedly killed eight people and injured 17 near the 23 August metro station in the north of the city. Among the victims were five-month-old Mikhail Korostyliov and his father Mykolaii Korostyliov, 34. The baby’s mother, Oleksandra Korostyliova, was lightly injured in the attack. See: and:

4 Letter from Maxim Haustov, director of the Medical Department of the Kharkiv Regional Military Administration, to Amnesty International, n°02-03-09/508, 28 April 2022.

5 “Kharkiv was struck 65 times on Monday and 600 residence buildings have been destroyed so far, officials say,” CNN, 15 March 2022,

6 Some people preferred to have their patronym rather than their surname mentioned. Others neither. Several people said that a Ukrainian law applicable during wartime bars citizens from disclosing information about people and places affected by attacks from enemy forces. They may have been referring to Law No. 2160-IX, which came into effect in March 2022. See “Zelenskiy Signs Law Restricting Distribution of Ukrainian Military Information,” RadioFreeEurope, 28 March 2022.

7 Statement by Oleh Syniehubov, governor of Kharkiv Oblast, 8 March 2022,

8 “About 30% of residents left Kharkiv,” Kharkiv City Council, 28 March 2022,

9 “Scenes from Kharkiv: Battle wreckage, the boom of artillery, and people sheltering in the subway,” New York Times, 25 February 2022, and

10 “Russian troops enter Ukraine’s Kharkiv -Ukrainian official,” Reuters, 27 February 2022, is fully controlling Kharkiv – region governor,” Reuters, 27 February 2022,

11 “Ukraine facing humanitarian crisis amid relentless Russian missile attacks,” Guardian, 2 March 2022,

12 “See, for example, “Hanging on in a frontline Ukrainian ghost town,” France 24, 30 March 2022, Обстріл Харкова: снаряд влучив у під’їзд житлового будинку (Kharkiv shelling: A shell hit the entrance of an apartment building), 26 April 2022,

13 “Ukrainian troops holding destroyed village believe Russians withdrawing across border,” Reuters, 15 May 2022, “Ukrainian force begins evacuating from last Mariupol stronghold,” Reuters, 16 May 2022,

14 Several other people injured in the strike were taken to other hospitals.

15 See details in the Cluster Munition box

16 After several weeks in intensive care, Oksana’s condition was improving slightly at the time of writing this report, but she tragically died on 11 June.

17 See “В результате обстрела пункта “Новой почты” в Харькове погибли 6 мирных жителей, 15 ранены – глава ОВА” (As a result of shelling of the Novaya Pochta checkpoint in Kharkiv, 6 civilians were killed and 15 wounded – the head of the OVA), Interfax Ukraine, 24 March 2022.

18 See “Обстрел Слободского района Харькова: 7 погибших, 34 раненых” (Shelling of the Sloboda district of Kharkiv: 7 dead, 34 wounded), Ukrainska Pravda, 3 April 2022, Amnesty International spoke to witnesses who had seen four people killed and more than a dozen injured, and had heard of others who had been killed and injured. Residents of buildings 3 and 3A told Amnesty International that the man and woman who were killed by the benches in front of the building were local, but they did not know their names.

19 Residents said that the man who was killed in his car was had a volunteer badge but was not local and they did not know his name.

20 The explosion of several cluster munitions on the main road was caught on the security camera of the nearby checkpoint. See:

21 This was not the first strike on the village. A week earlier, on 21 April, Liubov Aleksandrova, age 69, suffered multiple fractures and lacerations to her arms and legs from shrapnel from a rocket strike, while in her garden

22 The Russian PTM-1S (ПТM-1C) is a dispenser-ejected, scatterable, high-explosive (HE) landmine with a random self-destruct feature. While Russia classifies it as an anti-vehicle landmine, it can be classified as a victim-operated anti-personnel landmine under the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention, because of the fact that it can be triggered by an accumulation of human-weighted pressure inputs. The landmine can be scattered from helicopters or dispersed from Grad (122mm) and Uragan (220mm) rockets. See PTM-1S Landmine, Collective Awareness to UXO (undated),

23 Objective TV, 12 April 2022,

24 These are large multi-storey buildings hosting more than 100 apartments each and residents do not know each other. Moreover, after the initial strikes many residents fled the city, including relatives, friends and neighbours of the victims.

25 “Land Mines on a Timer, Scattered over a Ukrainian Town,” New York Times, 8 April 2022,

26 The 9N210 and 9N235 cluster munitions appear nearly identical from the outside, and differ only in the length of the time delay of their self-destruct feature and the size of the pre-formed pellets in the frag sleeves. See Russian 9N235 submunitions documented in Ukraine, Armament Research Services, 13 March 2022.

27 Each 9N235 munition contains approximately 360 smaller pellets, nominally weighing 0.75 grams, and approximately 96 larger pellets weighing 4.5 grams. Each 9N210 munition contains approximately 400 pellets, all weighing 2.0 grams. See Russian 9N235 submunitions documented in Ukraine, Armament Research Services, 13 March 2022.

28 International Committee of the Red Cross, Customary International Humanitarian Law, Vol 1: Rules (ICRC, Customary IHL Study), Rule 71: Weapons That Are by Nature Indiscriminate.

29 The Convention is available at: It has been signed by 164 states, including Ukraine but not Russia.

30 The figure is from Governor Oleh Syniehubov, quoted in “Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second city, adjusts to life with half its pre-war population”, The Economist, 30 May 2022.

31 An Amnesty International researcher found remnants and shrapnel from Grad rockets and artillery shells all around the affected areas, as well as remnants of Uragan rockets. 32 For example, a full salvo of 40 Grad rockets produces a lethal area of 600m x 600m. See 122 mm BM-21 Multi Barrel Rocket Launcher (MBRL), Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining (GICHD),

33 A witness at the site told Amnesty International that two people were killed and another witness said she had seen several people injured after the strike.

34 See image (verified and geolocated) of the rocket at:

35 Two residents also said that Sergiy Tiyglo, an older resident of 36 Buchmy Street, and his mother were killed on 3 March in shelling. They were killed in front of the entrance while he was trying to evacuate her in their car.

36 ICRC, Customary IHL Study, Rule 23. Location of Military Objectives outside Densely Populated Areas.

37 A howitzer is a short cannon used to fire projectiles at medium muzzle velocities and with relatively high trajectories.

38 Each KPOM-2 canister contains 4 POM-2 anti-personnel landmines, which are prohibited under the Mine Ban Treaty. See KPOM-2, Fenix Online (undated), This area was never under the control of Russian forces, and these mines are known to be in the possession of Ukrainian forces. See Ukrainian-operated UMZ mine laying system in Ukraine, Armament Research Services, 3 March 2015,

39 Both Russia and Ukraine are states party to the four Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949 and their Additional Protocol of 1977 relating to the Protection of Victims of International Armed Conflicts (Protocol I). Many of the rules in these conventions are also part of customary international law.

40 ICRC, Customary IHL Study, Rule 1. See also Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, and relating to the Protection of Victims of International Armed Conflicts (Protocol I), Article 48.

41 ICRC, Customary IHL Study, Rule 5; see also Protocol I, Article 50.

42 ICRC, Customary IHL Study, Rule 6; see also Protocol I, Article 51(3).

43 Protocol I, Article 50(1).

44 ICRC, Customary IHL Study, Rule 156, p. 591; Protocol I, Article 85(3)(a); Rome Statute of the ICC, Article 8 (2)(b)(i).

45 ICRC, Customary IHL Study, Rule 7; Protocol I, Articles 48 and 52.

46 ICRC, Customary IHL Study, Rule 14; Protocol I, Articles 51(5)(b) and 57.

47 ICRC, Customary IHL Study, Rule 156, pp. 599-601; Protocol I, Article 85(3)(b); Rome Statue of the ICC, Article 8(2)(b)(iv).

48 Additional Protocol I, Article 57(2)(a)(ii) and 57(2)(c).

49 Additional Protocol I, Article 57(2)(b).

50 In addition to domestic judicial processes and the ICC, there is also a UN-established Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine that has a mandate to, among other things, collect and analyse evidence of international human rights and humanitarian law violations in Ukraine. See UN Human Rights Council, Resolution 49/1, UN Doc. A/HRC/RES/49/1 (7 March 2022).

51 Ukraine is not a party to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC), but it has accepted the court’s jurisdiction over alleged crimes committed on its territory since November 2013. On 28 February 2022, the ICC prosecutor announced he would seek authorisation to open an investigation into alleged crimes in Ukraine. Statement of ICC Prosecutor on the Situation in Ukraine, 28 February 2022.

52 ICC Prosecutor Karim A.A. Khan QC announces deployment of forensics and investigative team to Ukraine, welcomes strong cooperation with the Government of the Netherlands, ICC, 17 May 2022,

53 Two Russian soldiers plead guilty in new war crimes trial in Ukraine, Reuters, 26 May 2022;

54 See, for example, Amnesty International Report 2021/22, Index: POL 10/4870/2022 (chapter on Ukraine); Freedom House, Freedom in the World 2022.

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