Amnesty International found evidence that Russian troops repeatedly used scatterable land mines and 9N210 / 9N235 cluster munitions prohibited by international law.
“Russian forces have repeatedly launched devasting and indiscriminate strikes using internationally banned cluster bombs on populated residential areas, killing and injuring scores of civilians. In barrage after barrage, men, women and children have been killed and injured in their homes and in the streets, in playgrounds and cemeteries, while queueing for humanitarian aid or shopping for food,” reads the report.
The director of the medical department of the Kharkiv Regional Military Administration told Amnesty International that 606 civilians had been killed and 1,248 injured in the Kharkiv region between 24 February and 28 April, about 70 percent of them in Kharkiv city and the rest in the surrounding area.
Russia, the Amnesty International notes, is a party neither to the Convention on Cluster Munitions, nor to the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use,
Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on Their Destruction. However, international humanitarian law prohibits indiscriminate attacks and the use of weapons, which by their nature are aimed at both militants and civilians.
Indiscriminate attacks that kill or injure civilians or damage civilian objects are considered war crimes.
The report also describes the deaths of civilians from unguided rockets.
Unguided rockets, such as Grads and Uragans, which have been routinely used by Russian forces to shell residential neighbourhoods of Kharkiv, are inherently inaccurate and produce wide area-effects, making them indiscriminate when used in populated areas. Likewise, standard artillery rounds without precision guidance kits have a typical circular error probable of over 100m. In residential areas where buildings are no more than few metres apart, such inaccuracies are virtually certain to cost civilian lives and cause extensive destruction and damage to homes and other civilian objects.
As noted, “Ukrainian forces often operated from residential neighbourhoods, launching strikes from them and attracting Russian fire. Such practices endangered civilians in the areas and violated international humanitarian law. Yet it is important to emphasize that these Ukrainian violations in no way justified the indiscriminate strikes repeatedly launched against these neighbourhoods by Russian forces.”
Amnesty International researchers spent 14 days in April and May investigating 41 strikes in Kharkiv, which killed at least 62 civilians and injured over 196. They visited strike locations and interviewed 160 people. The organization’s researchers also collected and analysed material evidence from strike locations, notably munitions fragments which were analysed by weapons experts. The report provides specific examples and testimonies of Kharkiv residents.
Kharkiv, a city of almost 1.5 million people, has been bombed since February 24, the first day of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.