Russia has committed war crimes in northeastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv, said Amnesty International, as the rights body accused Moscow of using banned cluster bombs and carrying out indiscriminate attacks killing hundreds of civilians.
“The repeated bombardments of residential neighbourhoods in Kharkiv are indiscriminate attacks which killed and injured hundreds of civilians, and as such constitute war crimes,” the rights group said in a report published on Monday.
Since late February, Russian forces have relentlessly targeted Kharkiv, the second-largest city in Ukraine, resulting in hundreds of deaths and massive destruction of the city.
Amnesty International found evidence of Russian forces repeatedly using international banned weaponry such as 9N210/9N235 cluster munitions and scatterable mines that are known for their indiscriminate effects.
“The people of Kharkiv have faced a relentless barrage of indiscriminate attacks in recent months, which killed and injured hundreds of civilians,” said Donatella Rovera, Amnesty International’s senior crisis response adviser.
“The repeated use of widely banned cluster munitions is shocking, and a further indication of utter disregard for civilian lives. The Russian forces responsible for these horrific attacks must be held accountable for their actions, and victims and their families must receive full reparations,” Rovera added.
Since Russia invaded its western neighbour on February 24, 606 civilians have been killed and 1,248 injured in the Kharkiv region, the director of the Medical Department at the Kharkiv Regional Military Administration told Amnesty International.
Russia and Ukraine are not parties to the international conventions banning cluster munitions and anti-personnel mines. But, Amnesty stressed, “international humanitarian law prohibits indiscriminate attacks and the use of weapons that are indiscriminate by nature”.
“Launching indiscriminate attacks resulting in death or injury to civilians, or damage to civilian objects, constitutes war crimes.”
A large number of Kharkiv residents have been forced to leave the city due to heavy shelling since the February invasion.
Al Jazeera reported from the city in March showing the widespread destruction due to the Russian bombardments, with an Al Jazeera correspondent describing the city as one ridden with “apocalyptic scenes” of bombed-out buildings.
More than six million refugees have fled Ukraine since Russia’s invasion began on February 24 by May 11, according to figures from the United Nations refugee agency.
In May, Amnesty International reported war crimes in Ukraine, including the “wilful killings of civilians” by Russian forces when they occupied an area northeast of Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital, in February and March.
Similarly, Human Rights Watch (HRW) accused Russia of carrying out “apparent war crimes”, detailing summary executions, torture and other grave abuses in two regions of Ukraine.
Ukraine says it has launched more than 12,000 war crime probes since the war began.