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.

Carnage as Russia bombs crowded DIY store, targets rescuers and Ukrainian publisher in Kharkiv

Halya Coynashtarg
Russia had killed at least 35 civilians from the beginning of its mass offensive on Kharkiv to 24 May. The death toll from its missile strikes on shoppers at a DIY hypermarket already stands at 16, with that number likely to rise

Kharkiv victims of Russia’s attack on Factor-Druk printing company, Russia’s missile strike on Epicentre DIY store on 25.05.2024

Kharkiv victims of Russia’s attack on Factor-Druk printing company, Russia’s missile strike on Epicentre DIY store on 25.05.2024

Vivat-Publishing have named the seven members of staff whom Russia killed on 23 May in its missile strike on the publishing house and the Factor-Druk Printing Plant in Kharkiv.  The Russian bombers may not have known Tetiana Khrapina; Olha Kurasova; Hanna Mynaeva; Olena Ninarodska; Svitlana Ryzhenko; Dmytro Shylo and Roman Strohyy, but they certainly knew that they were hitting a civilian target.  While Russia is carrying out such attacks on civilian targets virtually every day, it is probably no accident that they hit a Ukrainian publishing and printing house, with this also destroying around 50 thousand books, including school textbooks and children’s literature.  In all parts of Ukraine that have fallen under Russian occupation, the invaders have lost no time in removing Ukrainian literature and all books in Ukrainian from educational institutions and libraries.  

Both Vivat Publishing and Factor-Druk play a vital role in publishing books of fiction and non-fiction, and many authors from other countries have made statements of support and solidarity.  Vivat’s CEO, Yulia Orlova issued an appeal in which the first suggested way in which people can help is by supporting Ukraine’s military to defeat the enemy, with assistance also needed in ensuring that the international community learn of such savage attacks on Ukrainian civilians and Ukrainian culture.  Details on how to financially help victims of the attack and their families, as well as the printing house can be found here.

It is no accident that, after the Russian invaders were driven out of the Kharkiv oblast city of Balakliya in 2022, documents came to light showing how the occupation regime had immediately taken measures to remove the Ukrainian language and literature from schools.   In occupied Donbas, Russia used its proxy ‘Donetsk and Luhansk people’s republics’ to remove the Ukrainian language from schools and official life.  By late 2023, virtually all works of Ukrainian literature were reported to have been removed, and probably destroyed, from local libraries in occupied parts of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts.  Moscow also compiled a list of ‘prohibited books’ to be removed from educational institutions, with these including works by world-renowned historians, thinkers, former Soviet political prisoners and contemporary writers.   

In the first months of 2024, Moscow made use of the US Republican blocking of a vital military aid package to Ukraine and other western delays to mount an increasingly ferocious offensive, with Kharkiv and Kharkiv oblast coming under major attack from 10 May.

On 24 May, Elizabeth Throssel, spokesperson for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights spoke at a UN briefing on the situation.  According to the findings of the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine (HRMMU), at least 35 civilians had been killed and 137 injured in Kharkiv oblast alone since Russia began its offensive on 10 May.  She pointed out the disproportionate number of people over 60, since this age group was the least able or willing to leave their homes. Those injured had included medical workers, ambulance drivers and a local official who were shot at while trying to get civilians out of the village of Buhaivka.   

Ms Throssel also pointed out the toll of two missile strikes carried out by the Russians on a recreation centre in Cherkaska Lozova, near Kharkiv.  At least six civilians were killed, with the second strike coming after 20 minutes, and clearly targeting police and medical workers trying to rescue victims of the first bomb.

Russia’s ‘response’ to the OHCHR’s call on it “to strictly respect all the rules of international law relating to the conduct of hostilities, and to cease its attacks on Ukraine immediately” came less than 24 hours later.  On Saturday afternoon, 25 May, it used two guided bombs to hit the crowded Epicentre DIY hypermarket in a residential area of Kharkiv.  As of late Saturday evening, the death toll stands at six, however 16 people are still missing.  40 were injured in this deliberate attack on a civilian target.

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