Hundreds of Civilians Killed by Russia’s Bombing of Kharkiv, Report Says

Russia’s repeated attacks on Ukraine using cluster munitions “constitute war crimes,” Amnesty International said in a new report released Monday, highlighting several bombings in the northeastern city of Kharkiv, where more than 600 civilians have been killed since Russia invaded Ukraine in February.

The report, titled “Anyone Can Die at Any Time,” was compiled from interviews with 160 people, including survivors of strikes, witnesses, and medical professionals who treated victims.

14 days spent by Amnesty investigators in Kharkiv investigating 41 strikes which occurred between February 24th, 2008 and April 28th, 2008. These strikes included cluster munition strikes within residential areas of the city. At least 62 people were killed and nearly 200 were injured in those strikes.

“The repeated use of widely banned cluster munitions is shocking, and a further indication of utter disregard for civilian lives,” said Donatella Rovera, Amnesty International’s senior crisis response adviser. “The Russian forces responsible for these horrific attacks must be held accountable for their actions, and victims and their families must receive full reparations.”

The Convention on Cluster Munitions bans cluster munitions. It is a global treaty that came into effect in 2010. Ukraine, Russia, and the U.S. are not signatories of the agreement, but Amnesty said the countries “are obliged to respect the ban on the use of inherently indiscriminate weapons that forms part of customary international humanitarian law.”

The munitions are “inherently indiscriminate,” said Amnesty, because after an initial strike they leave behind unexploded ordnance across a wide area, creating de facto landmines and posing a risk to civilians.

Valerii Nosonenko from Saltivka, one survivor. describedWitnessing the explosion of cluster submunitions on April 26, which killed three people and injured at least six others, was shocking.

“We went out at about 11:45 am and as we were by the corner of the building I heard a sound: not the usual whistle of a Grad rocket, which we had gotten used to, but a shorter, sharper sound,” Nosonenko told Amnesty researchers. “Since the explosion was at ground level I decided not to lie down and to run up the street instead. I grabbed [my wife] Nina’s hand and told her to keep her head down and run. At the same time I felt a sharp pain at the back of my left thigh.”

“I was bleeding and in pain and I ran towards the first entrance of the building and asked our neighbor, Olha, to call an ambulance, and at that moment there was a second explosion and Nina fell to the ground,” he continued. “She was injured in the back. Shrapnel went through from her back to the front of her collarbone and damaged her lung.”

Researchers also investigated a bombing near a playground in the Industrialnyi neighborhood, finding “distinctive fins and metal pellets and other fragments” of cluster munitions as well as “several small craters” in the ground which are common after cluster bombings.

At least nine civilians were wounded in the bombing that occurred on April 15. This included Oksana Litvynyenko aged 41, who was walking along with her husband Ivan as well as their four-yearold daughter.

Ivan told the researchers that shrapnel penetrated Oksana’s back, chest, and abdomen, puncturing her lungs and spine and leaving her with serious injuries that led to her death on June 11.

After a cluster bombing that occurred in the station parking lot, which also caused explosions dozens of meters away, at least six people died waiting for humanitarian assistance in the line outside Akademika Palova Metro Station.

Two of the munitions hit Holy Trinity Church. There, volunteers have been preparing food for elderly people and persons with disabilities on a daily base since February when the war began.

Russia’s “continued use of such inaccurate explosive weapons in populated civilian areas” may amount to the military “directing attacks against the civilian population,” said Amnesty, adding that the use of cluster munitions constitutes war crimes.

“Russia cannot claim it does not know the effect of these weapons,” said Agnes Callamard, secretary general of Amnesty.

The report called “for justice processes to be as comprehensive as possible, ensuring that all perpetrators are brought to justice through independent, impartial, and fair trials for all crimes under international law.”

Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, was home to 1.4 million people before Russia invaded, but officials say more than 600,000 civilians have fled due to the bombardment campaign.

Since the start of the war, the United Nations has documented 4,339 civilian deaths in Ukraine and more than 5,200 injuries.