Human Rights Watch Says Kiev Killing Civilians with Illegal Weapons
July 26, 2014
The Ukrainian army is using indiscriminate Grad missiles to attack densely populated areas in Donetsk, which violates international humanitarian law, Human Rights Watch alleged. It also blamed militia for taking cover in those areas. Ukrainian troops have on many occasions used incendiary weapons and cluster bombs against militia-held cities, acts that are banned under the international law regulating warfare, the Russian military said.
HRW Blames Kiev Army for Indiscriminately Killing Civilians with Missiles
(July 25, 2014) -- The Ukrainian army is using indiscriminate Grad missiles to attack densely populated areas in Donetsk, which violates international humanitarian law, Human Rights Watch alleged. It also blamed militia for taking cover in those areas.
The rights organization confirmed four rocket attacks by the Ukrainian military, or Kiev-allied paramilitary, on residential areas in or near Donetsk, which resulted in at least 16 civilian deaths and many more wounded. The attacks were carried out with Grad multiple rocket weapon systems, highly indiscriminate weapons that cannot be used against populated areas.
"Although Ukrainian government officials and the press service of the National Guard have denied using Grad rockets in Donetsk, a Human Rights Watch investigation on the ground strongly indicates that Ukrainian government forces were responsible for the attacks that occurred between July 12 and 21," the group said on Friday.
Kiev routinely denies causing civilian deaths in its conflict with armed militias in the east of the country and put the blames for such deaths on the militias themselves. But the attack sites investigated by HRW clearly point to the Ukrainian military.
"The attacks' proximity to the front line also makes it unlikely, and in some cases impossible, that insurgent forces were responsible for the attacks. In two of the attacks, rockets hit on or near insurgent bases and checkpoints at the same time as they hit residential areas, indicating government forces were responsible," the report said.
HRW didn't report any evidence that militias were responsible for any Grad attacks on civilian-populated areas, but warned that they should avoid operating in those areas. The group also blamed them for failing to keep civilians out of harm's way.
"Insurgent forces have failed to take all feasible precautions to avoid deploying in densely populated areas, thereby endangering civilians in violation of the laws of war," it said. "In one case, separatist forces moved their base closer to the center of the town when Grad rockets struck their base and a nearby residential area. Violations of the laws of war by one side to the conflict do not justify violations by the other side."
Belligerent parties in Ukraine must keep in mind that they are responsible for keeping their hostilities within international humanitarian law, HRW warned.
"Ukrainian authorities should order all their forces, including volunteer forces, to immediately stop using Grads in or near populated areas, and insurgent forces should avoid deploying in densely populated areas," said Ole Solvang, senior emergencies researcher at Human Rights Watch.
"Commanding officers on all sides should recognize that one day they could face legal consequences for their actions."
Earlier the International Red Cross officially declared the hostilities in eastern Ukraine a civil war, which opened the way for prosecuting atrocities committed there in international courts.
Grad is a Russian-made rocket launcher used by the Ukrainian military, which fires volleys of unguided missiles from multiple tubes mounted on a rack. The weapon is meant to cause massive damage to enemy positions, with individual rockets capable of killing unprotected soldiers in a radius of up to 28 meters from impact.
Kiev troops are continuing their attacks on cities held by militia forces, using their aviation and heavy artillery to barrage defense forces. The outgunned militias try to compensate by maneuvering and taking cover among city buildings. The army is hesitant to advance into hostile urban areas, where their superiority in armor and heavy weapons would be irrelevant.
Ukraine Used Phosphorous Incendiaries,
Cluster Bombs against Cities – Russian Military
(July 25, 2014) -- Ukrainian troops have on many occasions used incendiary weapons and cluster bombs against militia-held cities, acts that are banned under the international law regulating warfare, the Russian military said.
The accusation was voiced on Friday by Major General Viktor Poznikhir, the deputy commander of the chief operations branch of the Russian General Staff. Earlier some media reports claimed that munitions, which are not allowed to be used against civilian targets, were used in eastern Ukraine by the Kiev troops in their assault on armed militias.
According to the general, the Russian military are certain of a number of such attacks by Ukrainian troops. Those include artillery shelling with incendiary shells on June 12 in Slavyansk, on June 24 and June 29 in Semyonovka and on July 7 in Lisichansk. There were also air strikes with incendiary bombs on June 21 in Slavyansk and Kramatorsk and on July 23 in Donetsk and shelling with cluster shells on June 24 in Semyonovka.
"We have sufficient proof that in the cities and villages of Ukraine I mentioned, ammunition based on phosphorus was used," Poznikhir said. In all those instances characteristic fast-falling clusters of sparks were spotted in the air and massive fires on the ground were reported, proving that those were not illumination flares.
The evidence behind the ministry's assessment includes eyewitness accounts, injuries sustained by the victims of the attacks and media reports from Ukraine, the Russian general said.
"The incendiaries were used against residential areas where only civilians were present at the time," Poznikhir stressed. "We believe the Ukrainian side wanted to produce a demoralizing effect on the people and inflict serious damage to communal infrastructure, which would create the conditions for a humanitarian disaster."
Most of the incidents mentioned by the general happened in or near Slavyansk, once the most defended strongholds of the Ukrainian militia, which for two months held out against the siege by Ukrainian troops. The city was eventually abandoned by militia forces, which regrouped and fortified other Ukrainian cities. Those are currently under Ukrainian attack.
The use of incendiary weapons against civilians or military objects located in civilian areas is forbidden by Protocol III of the UN Convention on Conventional Weapons. Ukraine is a signatory to the protocol. Cluster munitions are prohibited by the Convention on Cluster Munitions, but Ukraine did not ratify that agreement.
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