Feb 28, 2022
Russia's Monday bombing of Ukraine's second-largest city involving the suspected use of cluster munitions and the alleged targeting of civilian infrastructure drew outrage as the military assault showed no signs of waning on its fifth day.
The death toll from the strikes on the eastern city of Kharkiv--which came amid peace talks between Ukrainian and Russian delegations--was unclear, with some Ukrainian officials estimating the figure to be in the dozens.
Politico EUdescribed the attack on Kharkiv as "a vicious bombardment of civilians" that "appeared to mark an alarming escalation in the willingness of Russian troops to fire missiles into residential areas."
\u201cPossible use of cluster munitions in Kharkiv. There was a video posted earlier that showed a Smerch MLRS rocket booster landing in Kharkiv, which can carry cluster munitions. \nhttps://t.co/fitcfyuNDr\u201d— Rob Lee (@Rob Lee) 1646043480
The regional mayor, Oleg Sinegubov, accused Russia of a possible war crime. In a post on his Facebook page, Sinegubov wrote that "the Russian enemy is shelling entire residential areas of Kharkiv, where there is no critical infrastructure, where there are no positions of the armed forces that the Russians could aim at."
Analysts including ones from open source investigative outlet Bellingcat were among those pointing to evidence that Russian forces used cluster munitions--banned by over 120 countries and linked to disproportionate harm to civilians--in its attack on Kharkiv:
\u201cWhat's we're seeing across Ukraine are the remains of these rockets embedded in the ground, and often being misreported as unexploded rockets. This is evidence of a successful deployment of cluster munitions, not an unexploded weapon.\u201d— Eliot Higgins (@Eliot Higgins) 1646063766
\u201cSome of the videos showing Russia's indiscriminate bombing of homes in Kharkiv today are too graphic to share here. \n\nThis one, while not graphic, is haunting in its own right. \n\nResidents walking through a park scramble for safety as cluster munitions explode around them.\u201d— Giancarlo Fiorella (@Giancarlo Fiorella) 1646066830
"The film @cnn is showing of an MLRS [multiple launch rocket system] artillery attack on an apartment complex in Kharkiv is worse than reported... from my assessment, those are cluster munitions, outlawed by most countries," tweetedCNN military analyst Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling on Monday.
Russian forces already stood accused of using cluster munitions in its assault on Ukraine, including in a Friday attack on a pre-school in Okhtyrka and in a Thursday strike near a hospital in Vuhledar.
"There is no possible justification for dropping cluster munitions in populated areas, let alone near a school," said Agnes Callamard, the group's secretary-general.
"This attack bears all the hallmarks of Russia's use of this inherently indiscriminate and internationally-banned weapon, and shows flagrant disregard for civilian life," she said.
"It is stomach-turning," added Callamard, "to see an indiscriminate attack on a nursery and kindergarten where civilians are seeking safe haven. Plain and simple, this should be investigated as a war crime."
\u201cThis is unacceptable by any standard. Hitting a hospital, killing and injuring civilians and using cluster munition. These weapons were banned for a reason. NPA condemns the use of cluster munition and their use should end immediately. \n\nhttps://t.co/JZApV7digd\u201d— NPA Mine Action and Disarmament (@NPA Mine Action and Disarmament) 1645892387
Responding Friday to the Vuhledar strike, Steve Goose, arms director of Human Rights Watch, called it a "callous attack [that] has killed and injured civilians, and damaged a hospital." He further urged Russian forces to "stop using cluster munitions and end unlawful attacks with weapons that indiscriminately kill and maim."
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