Human Rights Monitors express concern about Krasny Liman
A monitoring group went to Krasny Liman in the Donetsk oblast on July 2 to investigate allegations that fighters from the Ukrainian National Guard had shot wounded fighters from the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, and that a hospital had come under artillery fire during fighting in the city.
The monitoring group had four members: Oleg Orlov from the Russian Memorial Human Rights Centre; Ludmila Klochko from the Kharkiv Human Rights Group; Andriy Chernousov from the Kharkiv-based Organization of Independent Monitors; and Maria Tomak from the Ukrainian Centre for Civil Liberties.
They were also joined by Tatyana Lokshina, Senior Researcher for tbe Russian office of Human Rights Watch.
The district centre of Krasny Liman was brought under the control of the Ukrainian military at the beginning of June.
Reports appeared at that time claiming that on June 3, during fighting, a hospital on the southern outskirts of the city, had come under artillery fire. It was reported that a doctor had been killed, and several people injured.
On June 4 Denis Pushilin, one of the leaders of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic [DPR] asserted in an interview to the Russian TV channel Rossiya 24 that Ukrainian enforcement officers had killed 25 wounded militants in the hospital. His claims were repeated on a number of occasions by many media sources with the figure increasing to 150 alleged victims. Later Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke of people having been shot as though it was established fact.
The National Guard’s press service denied the charges, saying that members of the unit had not been and weren’t in Krasny Liman.
The monitoring group spoke with many witnesses of the general events. Not one confirmed the above claims about wounded people having been shot. The only source of the claims was statements from the DPR.
The monitoring group did however gather evidence which not only confirms that the hospital came under mortar fire, but that suggests that Ukrainian soldiers deliberately fired at the hospital.
The monitoring group spent roughly 6 hours in Krasny Liman on July 2. The city seemed peaceful and there was no major damage to buildings, with the exception of one of the city’s two hospitals – the Central District Hospital [CDH] and a railway hospital.
They were able to speak with the chief doctors of both hospitals with nobody else present during these conversations.
CDH is in the north of the city. The chief doctor, Victoria Demidova told them that it contains 150 beds, of which around 100 were occupied at the time of the conversation. There were problems with supplies of insulin since 5 people needing insulin had fled to the city from Slovyansk which was under the control of the militants.
There were four men with bullet wounds, all of whom were in satisfactory condition. Three were wounded at the beginning of June during an armed confrontation in the city. One had been wounded later when he trod on a trap in the forest. There were also a man and a women with injuries to their lower legs. Nobody else had been brought to the hospital with injuries over the last few months.
There had been no deaths at all in CDH from gunshot or shrapnel wounds. No bodies had been brought to the hospital’s morgue during the anti-terrorist operation [ATO].
There had been no evacuation of the hospital when armed confrontations took place in the city since there was no direct danger to the hospital.
The railway hospital is in the southern outskirts of the city. There were reports in the media that this hospital had been deliberately shot oat and some publications also claimed that wounded members of armed formations had been shot here.
The territory and the blocks of the railway hospital had been hit by mortar fire and the roof of one section had received a direct hit. Glass had been shattered and the walls of some sections had been damaged.
The chief doctor Leonid Zahursky lives in Slovyansk. He moved his family from there but he himself, despite the city being under fire, regularly drives home in his own car.
He explained that the hospital is only used for railway workers. There are 90 beds and at the time in question there were around 80 patients. He asserts that there were no patients with wounds.
Two people had earlier, on July 3, been brought to the hospital with shrapnel wounds. This was a train driver with a stomach wound and a driver’s assistance who had wounds to the lower legs. They had been returning after their shift. The driver had died along the way, and his assistant was transferred to CDH and has since been discharged.
Nobody was expecting any danger that day since there were no members of armed formations in the hospital or near in. Patients had not been evacuated.
At around 15.30 on June 3 the hospital came under mortar fire for around 10 minutes. 9 mines exploded, one hitting the roof of the medical block, others exploded against walls. Vasily Shistka, a 62-year-old surgeon died from shrapnel which exploded near the wall of the surgery block. He was ending a planned operation when the mortar fire attack began. He came out of the operating theatre and was hit in the head by shrapnel from the last mine that exploded. Badly injured, he could only receive emergency care, since there was no other surgeon in the hospital to operate. He was taken to the Kharkiv central hospital the following day but died two weeks later.
None of the patients were injured. Dr Zahursky categorically denies claims that any people in the hospital for treatment were shot.
Zahursky is convinced that the hospital was deliberately targeted. He says that the following day a group of Ukrainian soldiers arrived in an armoured vehicle. The senior person, wearing a uniform of the special Berkut police who were dissolved in February this year, told Zahursky that they needed to carry out a ‘clean-out’ of the hospital premises. He did not show any documents. When asked by the chief doctor why his hospital had come under fire, the man answered that on his map the hospital was marked as a ‘militants’ hospital’. The doctor also asserts that he was shown this map Zahursky says that the soldiers created a corridor to transport the injured and helped to take them away from the hospital grounds. During this ‘clean-out’ armed men, following the doctor, examined all wards and other premises. The chief doctor used the term ‘clean-out’ [or ‘purge’ – the Russia is zachistka] although judging by his words the soldiers did not take any action which could be described by that word. They did not show interest in the patients’ documents confirming their identity and did not take anybody out of the wards or arrest them. Having examined all the blocks and not found anything suspicious, the armed men left.
Five days later another group of Ukrainian military arrived and again carried out a full inspection of the premises. The chief doctor complained to the city’s commandant and these visitations stopped.
Later Zahursky went to the prosecutor and reported all the circumstances linked with the shooting of the hospital. A criminal investigation has been initiated, with the railway prosecutor directly in charge of the investigation. There are no results as yet but Zahursky has received confirmation that the case has been registered in the Single Register of pre-trial investigations.
Talking about the shooting, the chief doctor who, it transpired, is active in local political life and was a representative of former president Viktor Yanukovych on electoral commissions during the elections, mentioned that some kind of “special targeting’ was possible. He did not specify what he meant by this but several times stressed that he was determined to ‘find those who did the shooting’.
After speaking with the chief doctor, they examining adjacent residential areas and found no traces of any shooting. Only the walls of houses adjacent to the hospital grounds showed light damage from shrapnel. This is additional evidence in favour for the version that the hospital was deliberately targeted.
The monitoring group demands a thorough investigation of this tragic incident, and says that this investigation should pay special attention to any facts indicating deliberate shooting of the hospital. Nothing can justify the deliberate targeting of a medical establishment that nobody was shooting from.