war crimes in Ukraine

The Tribunal for Putin (T4P) global initiative was set up in response to the all-out war launched by Russia against Ukraine in February 2022.

How are Russia’s missile strikes on civilians in Vinnytsia and Chasiv Yar not terrorism?

Halya Coynash
Even a so-called ‘special military operation’, as Vladimir Putin euphemistically called Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine must obey the laws of war, and that means not deliberately killing children, like 4-year-old Lisa Dmitrieva

Vinnytsia - the push chair of one of the victims of Russia’s bombing of Vinnytsia Photo Ukraine’s Interior Ministry

Four-year-old Lisa Dmitrieva was one of three children whom Russia killed on 14 July, in missile strikes on the centre of Vinnytsia.  The death toll now stands at 23, but that figure is very likely to rise, as did the number of victims of another Russian attack on civilians in the city of Chasiv Yar (Donetsk oblast).  Unlike terrorist groups, Russia’s defence ministry has not rushed to admit responsibility, but it is using similar methods of terror.  Even a so-called ‘special military operation’, as Russian leader Vladimir Putin euphemistically called Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine must obey the laws of war, and that means not deliberately targeting civilians. Over the past week, Russia has bombed schools, residential buildings and other civilian targets in the Donetsk, Kharkiv and Mykolaiv oblasts.  In the late morning on 14 June, they turned their firepower on children walking with their mothers and other civilians in the centre of a Ukrainian city far from Russia’s frontline.

Lisa Dmitrieva who was killed outright by a Russian missile on 14 July and her mother Iryna, who was gravely injured

Terror in Chasiv Yar

At least 48 civilians, including a 9-year-old boy, were killed on 9 July by a Russian missile strike on a five-storey apartment block in Chasiv Yar in the Donetsk oblast.  The devastation was massive, with a side of the building totally destroyed.  Witnesses reported three or four strikes, and a neighbouring residential block was also hit.  There, however, the damage to the building was less and no one was killed. Ukraine’s Emergency Services reported what may now be the final number of dead late on 13 July, stating also that nine people had been rescued.  The bombs struck in the evening when people were likely to be home.  At least until the morning of 14 July, the bombing of Chasiv Yar was the bloodiest of Russia’s attacks since the beginning of its full-scale invasion.   

Chasiv Yar Searching for survivors of Russian bombing of apartment blocks Photo Pavlo Kyrylenko ii

It is a war crime to target civilians, and these were very clearly residential buildings, with no military site anywhere in the vicinity.  Unfortunately, Russia’s bombing of Ukrainian civilian targets has become a daily event and is no longer ‘breaking news’ for the international media.  It was, nonetheless, still very widely reported, with video footage and photos leaving nobody in any doubt that it was an apartment block that had been hit.

Without expressions of international outrage, Russia opted for concealment, rather than its normal repertoire of denials, attempts to blame Ukraine and / or claims that the photos, and even the victims, are ‘fakes’.  Moscow did presumably understand that the media would be full of mentions of Chasiv Yar, an otherwise little-known eastern Ukrainian city, and that total silence might arouse undue attention.  Instead, on 11 July, Russian defence ministry representative Igor Konashenkov was quoted by all Russian state media as claiming that the Russian armed forces had, using ‘high-precision weapons’, destroyed a temporary base of the 118th Ukrainian Territorial Defence brigade, and had “liquidated over 300 nationalists”.  This ‘temporary base’ was alleged to have been in Chasiv Yar which the Russian defence ministry bizarrely claimed to be in the Russian-controlled ‘Donetsk people’s republic’.   

Unlike the ample visual evidence (for example, here and here) of Russia’s bombing of the five-storey apartment block, backed also by the testimony of surviving residents and other witnesses, there is nothing at all to back this extraordinary Russian claim.  At present, Russia’s state controlled media are totally silent about the Russian carnage in Vinnytsia

Deliberate terror

The Russian defence ministry claim that any of its missiles are ‘high-precision’ is also extremely questionable.  With respect to the recent attacks on a Kremenchuk shopping centre, on an apartment block and children’s rehabilitation centre in Serhiyivka (Odesa oblast) and the daily bombing of the Kharkiv and Mykolaiv oblasts, there have been no obvious military targets anywhere nearby.  The same is evidently true of missile strikes, apparently launched from a submarine in the Black Sea. on the centre of Vinnytsia.

Less than a day after Russia bombed the shopping centre in Kremenchuk, killing 21 civilians, Putin’s press secretary Dmitry Peskov publicly offered a swift end to the war if Ukraine capitulated, agreeing to all of Russia’s demands.  The implication was clear: capitulate or face more such atrocities.

It is simply impossible not to conclude that Russia is deliberately targeting residential areas, hospitals, and other civilian sites, and that its objectives are those of any terrorists, namely to instil terror in the population and to force their will on those with the power to make decisions.   

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