Ukraine: Unlawful Russian Attacks in Kharkiv Human Rights Watch

Ukrainian servicemen sit on infantry fighting vehicles driving down a road in the Donetsk region on August 18, 2022, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine. A video of Ukrainian soldiers being tearfully greeted by residents in the city of Balakliya, which Ukraine’s army said it recaptured from Russian forces has gone viral.

They used the cultural center in downtown Derhachi as a distribution point, said five volunteers there and a security guard. When interviewed, the volunteers were wearing olive green clothing, similar to military attire, though all were civilians. At around the same time, a munition landed 795 meters from the park and 200 meters from the perimeter of the university. The blast killed a 59-year-old woman and wounded Polina, a 9-year-old girl, and a man, said three people living in the apartments next to where the munition landed. Polina’s great-grandmother said that Polina had been watching television with her father in their living room at the time of the blast.

The laws of war prohibit as indiscriminate attacks that are not directed at a specific military objective. Hospitals have special protections under the laws of war, and deliberate attacks against hospitals and other medical facilities that are not being used to carry out attacks are prohibited and constitute war crimes. The use of large-caliber artillery fire in the absence of a military target makes the attack indiscriminate, a serious violation of the laws of war and a potential war crime. Derhachi is 10 kilometers northwest of Kharkiv city with a population of roughly 21,000. Russian forces have bombarded the town since February 24, with the front line between Ukrainian and Russian forces only a few kilometers away.

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  • It multiplied my desire to survive in order to become a beacon of strength for other people.
  • Strong roots and traditions allowed our family to pick up right where we left off.
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  • The brother said he spoke to a neighbor, who heard screams and rushed over.

Strong roots and traditions allowed our family to pick up right where we left off. It’s a connection that goes back many decades — during World War II, our grandparents also helped one another survive. My husband didn’t close his eyes even once, keeping our cat Lady in his arms all night. We didn’t have a carrier, and she was nervous from the sounds of the bombing. The next day, we learned that almost all residential buildings around us and a school where students lived and studied were destroyed. The sounds of war grew as the city was increasingly bombed.

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Human Rights Watch saw damage to the clinic building’s façade, windows, and pharmacy, as well as a four-story apartment building across the street. The clinic’s medical director, Serhii Kopytko, said that staff members normally arrive at 8 a.m., and that fortunately no one from the clinic building was wounded. A 36-year-old man standing at a bus stop outside of the clinic building was wounded when one of the submunitions detonated nearby. Since February 2022, Russian forces have repeatedly used cluster munitions, which are inherently indiscriminate, in attacks across the country that have killed hundreds of civilians and damaged homes, hospitals, and schools. Ukrainian forces have used cluster munitions on at least two known occasions since the full-scale invasion began.

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The first is a fear for one’s life, the unbearable pain of parting, the frightened looks, shaking animals and faces filled with tears. The second side is the appreciation for the support of the military, the strangers waiting in Dnipro ready to help, the calls from colleagues and friends. In this moment, every call pushes you to continue moving forward, to continue surviving. It returns you to the ground beneath your feet and stops you from feeling disappointed in the world. When we said goodbye to them and hugged them, I was afraid we’d never see each other again. Because our car burned down, they gave us theirs, leaving them nothing to drive away with, if needed. From the other end of the city, my parents, brother’s family and four more families of our friends also left.

I visited Kharkiv less than a month before Russian missiles started striking it. Most of the people I met there—and all of the men whom I met there—told me that they, and the city, were ready for war. A Russian-orchestrated attempt to take over the city had failed in 2014, but, just to the east of Kharkiv, an occupation regime was established, and a shooting war went on for eight years. A giant blue-and-yellow tent in Freedom Square, with a banner that said “Everything for victory,” stood as a stubborn reminder that the war wasn’t over. ​​​​​​The building of the National Academy of State Administration of the President of Ukraine was destroyed by a Russian military attack. Satellite image recorded on June 11, 2022, two weeks before the attack on the Regional Clinical Trauma Hospital in Kharkiv city on June 26, shows roadblocks and earthen berms north of the medical complex. Korostelova was wounded in the attack, with a metal fragment that cut into her left leg, while Alina’s toes were injured.

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“The Russian army committed another act of terror against the civilian population — a child was wounded, two women were killed,” the regional prosecutor’s office said. The photographer Jérôme Sessini was in Kharkiv on assignment for The New Yorker from March 16th to 18th. He photographed the devastation in what had been Freedom Square. The regional-administration building, a giant structure in the Stalinist Empire style, was in ruins. An office building behind Freedom Square was destroyed—in part, it appeared, by the shelling, and in part by attempts to put out the fire that resulted. An unseasonable cold snap that hit Kharkiv in the second week of March encased the building in icicles. The mayor appealed to residents to leave their apartments and go down to the metro, which was serving not only as a series of bomb shelters now but also as heating stations and soup kitchens.

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