A city traditionally considered close to Moscow and with a majority of Russian speakers, it was attacked in densely populated civilian areas.
The Russian army used cluster explosives, which kill indiscriminately, in densely populated residential areas in Kharkiv, according to Human Rights Watch. This came the day after Russian troops entered the city in an attack repulsed by Ukrainian forces.
The use of cluster explosives is especially problematic because not only is it not possible to predict what they hit, but they leave many small explosives usually not detonating right away, staying in place, and posing a special danger to civilians long after even the shooting.
Mark Hiznay, deputy director of the weapons department at Human Rights Watch, told the US newspaper The Washington Post that according to the images he saw of the attack on Kharkiv, a city of almost one and a half million inhabitants, the Russian army used rockets Smerch with cluster munitions. “This attack clearly shows the inherently indiscriminate nature of cluster munitions, and it must be unequivocally condemned,” he said.
The use of this type of weapon is consistent with some local reports. Olga, quoted by the Financial Times, tells how she heard rockets falling near her when she was in a grocery store. “I started seeing shrapnel fly,” she described. “I thought they shot down a plane, it was deafening.”
“The Russians have surrounded Kharkiv and are bombing everything,” said Sasha Grinshpun, who fled the city but kept in touch with friends and family caught up in the bombing. With a delay in reaching Kyiv and the military’s difficulty in taking cities such as Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest, it was feared that the strategy would be to surround the sites and intensify attacks, increasing the risk of civilian casualties. The city of Kharkiv had, the day before, repelled a significant Russian attack.
This Monday, UN Human Rights Commissioner Michelle Bachelet said that at least 102 civilians had died since the invasion began last Thursday and that 304 were wounded, although the actual number is considerably higher,” she declared.
The day before, Amnesty International pointed out that indiscriminate attacks by Russia had hit hospitals and infrastructure that must be spared under international humanitarian law. The human rights organization’s Crisis Evidence Lab analyzed with digital evidence three attacks in the first hours of the invasion and detected the use of ballistic missiles and other long-range weapons in densely populated areas.
Amnesty has criticized the Russian government for falsely claiming that it only uses precision weapons. “Some of these attacks could be war crimes,” said AI Secretary-General Agnès Callamard.
As for the Kharkiv attack, the use of cluster munitions and the ferocity of the attack is especially difficult for some to accept because the Russian-speaking city was considered closer to Moscow. “This is a Russian-speaking region,” said a doctor, who declined to be named, after saying he failed to save a 17-year-old girl hit by shrapnel. “This whole situation seems unreal, we seem to be dreaming.”
“The Russian enemy is firing on residential areas of Kharkiv, where there is no important infrastructure, there are no armed forces positions that they could target,” said the city’s state administration official, Oleh Sinehubov, quoted by the Washington Post. These attacks are “war crimes”.
“The situation is difficult, but Kharkiv is holding up,” said the mayor of the city, Ihor Terekhov.
Source: With Agencies