Amnesty International on Monday accused Russia of war crimes in Ukraine, saying the attacks on Kharkiv, many of which used banned cluster bombs, had killed hundreds of civilians.
“The repeated bombing of residential neighborhoods in Kharkiv are indiscriminate attacks that have killed and injured hundreds of civilians, and therefore constitute war crimes,” the rights organization said in a report on Ukraine’s second largest city.
“This is true for attacks carried out using cluster (munitions) as well as those carried out using other types of unguided rockets and unguided artillery shells,” she added.
“The continued use of such imprecise explosive weapons in populated civilian areas, while knowing that they frequently cause large numbers of civilian casualties, may amount to directing attacks against the civilian population.”
Amnesty said it had uncovered evidence in Kharkiv of the repeated use by Russian forces of 9N210 and 9N235 cluster bombs and scattered landmines, all of which are prohibited by international conventions.
Cluster bombs shoot dozens of bomblets or grenades into the air, scattering them randomly over an area of hundreds of square meters (yards).
Amnesty International said that the scattered landmines combine “the worst characteristics of cluster munitions and anti-personnel landmines”.
Unguided artillery shells have a margin of error of more than 100 meters.
The report, titled “Anyone Can Die At Any Time,” details how Russian forces began targeting civilian areas in Kharkiv on the first day of the invasion on February 24.
The “continuous” bombardment continued for two months, causing “comprehensive destruction” in the city, which has a population of 1.5 million people.
“People have been killed in their homes, on the streets, in stadiums and in cemeteries, while queuing for humanitarian aid or shopping for food and medicine,” said Donatella Rovera, Senior Crisis Response Adviser at Amnesty International.
“The repeated use of widely banned cluster munitions is appalling, and another indication of the utter disregard for civilian lives.
The Russian forces responsible for these horrific attacks must be held accountable.”
The military administration in Kharkiv told Amnesty International that 606 civilians had been killed and 1,248 injured in the area since the conflict began.
Russia and Ukraine are not party to international agreements banning cluster munitions and antipersonnel mines.
However, Amnesty International stressed that “international humanitarian law prohibits indiscriminate attacks and the use of weapons that are indiscriminate in nature.
Launching indiscriminate attacks that result in the death or injury of civilians, or damage to civilian objects, constitute war crimes.
One of the witnesses Amnesty International spoke to was a cancer survivor, losing her legs in a Russian cluster bomb attack.
Olina Sorokina, 57, was outside her building when flying shrapnel hit her. She lost one leg immediately and later had to amputate the other.
A neighbor was killed with her on the spot. The latter’s daughter said the shrapnel entered the building.
“Even if my mother was inside her house she would have been beaten. She would have had no chance of facing such a bombing,” she said.
Amnesty International investigated 41 Russian strikes that killed at least 62 people and injured at least 196. It spoke to 160 people in Kharkiv over a two-week period in April and May, including survivors, victims’ relatives, witnesses and doctors.
Ukraine says it has opened more than 12,000 war crimes investigations since the war began.
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