(Lviv) – Foram reportados mais de 450 civis mortos ou feridos nos primeiros 11 dias da guerra, em Kharkiv, a segunda maior cidade da Ucrânia, como resultado de ataques aéreos russos e bombardeios de artilharia de áreas povoadas. Os ataques danificaram edifícios civis, incluindo prédios, escolas, locais de culto e lojas, impedindo o acesso a alimentos e medicamentos. Também danificaram a infraestrutura da cidade, fazendo com que os civis ficassem sem acesso a serviços essenciais, como eletricidade, aquecimento e água.
A Human Rights Watch identificou que a Rússia usou munições cluster e armas explosivas com impacto em vasta área em zonas densamente povoadas em Kharkiv, em ataques aparentemente indiscriminados e desproporcionais. O bombardeio indiscriminado em áreas densamente povoadas viola o direito internacional humanitário e pode constituir um crime de guerra.
“Em Kharkiv, as forças militares russas demostraram um total desrespeito pelas vidas civis por meio de repetidos ataques aparentemente indiscriminados em áreas povoadas”, disse Hugh Williamson, diretor para Europa e Ásia Central da Human Rights Watch. “Os militares russos talvez acreditem que podem desrespeitar as leis da guerra em seus ataques a Kharkiv, mas o Tribunal Penal Internacional tem jurisdição sobre crimes de guerra cometidos em Kharkiv e haverá responsabilização dos envolvidos”.
De acordo com a polícia regional de Kharkiv, entre 24 de fevereiro e 7 de março de 2022, um total de 133 civis foram mortos, 5 deles crianças, e 319 civis ficaram feridos. Um dos ataques documentados pela Human Rights Watch matou um homem enquanto ele esperava na fila do lado de fora de um supermercado; outro matou duas pessoas que aparentemente tinham acabado de sair de um abrigo para pegar água.
Um porta-voz do gabinete do prefeito de Kharkiv disse à Human Rights Watch que, em 4 de março, aproximadamente 500.000 pessoas permaneciam na cidade, de uma população de 1,8 milhão antes da guerra.
“As pessoas estão deixando Kharkiv ‘vazia’”, disse um morador à Human Rights Watch. “Eles não fazem as malas ou pegam suas coisas. Eles pegam seus documentos e uns aos outros e fogem.” Os que permaneceram tem suportado, na melhor das hipóteses, serviço de aquecimento intermitente, já que as temperaturas externas variaram entre 2 e -4 graus Celsius, bem como a escassez de alimentos, água e medicamentos essenciais.
Yuri Sydorenka, chefe do Departamento de Assuntos Externos do gabinete do prefeito de Kharkiv, disse que em 3 de março a cidade estava passando por uma grande escassez de medicamentos: “Até agora, conseguimos de algumas maneiras obter medicamentos, mas precisamos de mais”. Em 7 de março, a vice-chefe do escritório de Kharkiv do Ministério da Saúde, Zhanna Strogaya, disse à Human Rights Watch que pelo menos 14 instalações de saúde foram danificadas, 9 delas gravemente.
A Human Rights Watch entrevistou 29 pessoas, incluindo moradores de Kharkiv, trabalhadores médicos, voluntários que ajudam na evacuação da cidade e funcionários municipais, sobre os ataques. A Human Rights Watch verificou e analisou 29 vídeos e 41 fotografias postadas no Telegram, Twitter, Facebook ou TikTok, e outros 2 vídeos e 18 fotografias enviados diretamente aos pesquisadores para corroborar depoimentos de testemunhas e identificar locais de impacto e danos adicionais.
Os ataques documentados pela Human Rights Watch ocorreram entre 24 de fevereiro e 5 de março. Eles danificaram ou destruíram prédios residenciais, escolas, mercados, igrejas, lojas, hospitais, departamentos universitários e outras infraestruturas civis em toda a cidade. O grupo de direitos humanos ucraniano Truth Hounds também documentou muitos desses ataques.
“O centro da nossa cidade está sendo apagado”, disse um morador de Kharkiv à Human Rights Watch.
Sydorenka, disse que somente em 2 de março, um bombardeio russo matou 34 pessoas e feriu 285. Dez dos feridos são crianças. Ele também disse que os ataques danificaram centenas de prédios de apartamentos e interromperam o fornecimento de água e energia da cidade, deixando cerca de 300 prédios sem eletricidade.
Uma mulher de 45 anos que morava no distrito de Industrialny, no sudeste de Kharkiv, disse em 2 de março: “Onde eu moro, não há internet, água quente, não tivemos aquecimento por vários dias. Só tenho a comida que comprei antes da crise começar. Tudo está fechado, não há pão”.
Várias pessoas disseram que os porões, estacionamentos subterrâneos e outras instalações usadas como abrigos antibombas estavam muito frios e, quando se abrigavam neles, os civis tinham pouco acesso a necessidades básicas, como comida e água. Um homem de Saltivka, uma grande área residencial no nordeste de Kharkiv, disse que sua família passou seis noites em um porão sem aquecimento em temperatura abaixo de zero, com pouca comida e água. “Estava tão frio que comecei a ter convulsões”, disse ele. “As lojas têm pouca comida e água, você ainda pode comprar uma Coca-Cola, mas é só isso.”
Muitas pessoas também compartilharam seus medos de que a infraestrutura de seus prédios de apartamentos não fosse segura. “Há canos de água em nossos porões e existe o perigo de um cano de água estourar”, disse uma mulher. Outra disse que não se refugiou no porão, porque temia que o prédio desabasse e eles fossem “enterrados sob os escombros”. “É mais seguro no apartamento”, disse ela. Ela e seu filho de quatro anos estavam se abrigando no banheiro do quarto andar de seu prédio.
Dezenas de instalações educacionais, incluindo escolas e pré-escolas, foram danificadas ou destruídas na primeira semana da guerra, disse Sydorenka. A Human Rights Watch documentou danos em oito escolas e dois prédios universitários.
De acordo com o Direito Internacional Humanitário, as partes em um conflito armado têm a obrigação de distinguir sempre entre civis e combatentes, entre bens civis e objetivos militares, e tomar precauções para proteger civis e outros não-combatentes dos perigos da guerra. A não observância do princípio da distinção, em particular realizar um ataque contra civis ou bens civis ou realizar ataques indiscriminados ou desproporcionais, constitui um crime de guerra quando cometido de forma deliberada ou imprudente. A destruição excessiva ilegal e destruição de propriedade que não se justifique militarmente também é um crime de guerra.
A Human Rights Watch não conseguiu realizar visitas in loco em Kharkiv e usou entrevistas com testemunhas e imagens dos danos para tentar identificar os tipos de armas que as forças russas usaram nos ataques documentados. Esta análise demonstra que, além das munições cluster, as forças russas usaram armas explosivas com impacto em área ampla.
O uso de armas explosivas com impacto em área ampla em zonas povoadas aumenta a probabilidade de ataques ilegais, indiscriminados e desproporcionais. Essas armas têm um grande raio destrutivo, são inerentemente imprecisas ou despejam várias munições ao mesmo tempo. Os efeitos de longo prazo de seu uso incluem danos a edifícios civis e infraestrutura crítica, interferência em serviços como saúde e educação e deslocamento da população local. A Rússia e a Ucrânia devem evitar o uso de armas explosivas em áreas povoadas. Todos os países, incluindo a Rússia e a Ucrânia, devem apoiar uma forte declaração política que inclua o compromisso de evitar o uso de armas explosivas com impacto em área ampla em zonas povoadas.
As forças russas e ucranianas devem fazer todos os esforços para garantir que suprimentos adequados e assistência humanitária sejam capazes de chegar a civis em e ao redor de Kharkiv, e em todos os países, e as organizações intergovernamentais devem pressionar ambas as partes a cumprir suas obrigações de direito humanitário internacional e garantir o acesso a assistência humanitária e passagem segura para evacuações civis. As partes devem permitir o acesso a provedores de ajuda humanitária neutros e independentes para que possam oferecer apoio a civis vulneráveis que possam precisar de assistência para sair, incluindo pessoas com deficiência, idosos, grávidas, crianças e pessoas com condições médicas crônicas ou graves. Se um acordo para estabelecer corredores humanitários for alcançado e posto em vigor, as partes não devem violar esse acordo de forma que coloque em risco os civis.
O Tribunal Penal Internacional abriu uma investigação sobre a situação na Ucrânia. As extensas perdas e danos civis em Kharkiv sublinham a importância do escrutínio do tribunal sobre a legalidade dos ataques à cidade. A Comissão de Inquérito criada em 4 de março pelo Conselho de Direitos Humanos das Nações Unidas em Genebra também deve investigar supostos ataques ilegais em Kharkiv.
“Nossa avaliação aponta para vários ataques indiscriminados nos primeiros 11 dias de hostilidades em Kharkiv, e relatos da mídia indicam que a Rússia realizou mais ataques indiscriminados prejudicando civis enquanto os combates continuam em Kharkiv e em outros lugares”, disse Williamson. “A Rússia deve cumprir imediatamente suas obrigações de evitar e minimizar os danos civis, e não perder de vista o fato de que várias investigações internacionais estão em andamento para responsabilizar aqueles que não cumprem suas obrigações.”
Para informações detalhadas sobre os ataques e mais detalhes sobre as leis da guerra, veja abaixo, em inglês.
Human Rights watch interviewed 7 people in person in Lviv and 22 by telephone. Some people asked to be identified only by their first names or by pseudonyms for their protection.
Human Rights Watch identified the location of the videos and photographs it reviewed by matching geographic details with satellite imagery and Google Street View. The approximate date and time of the attacks are based on the accounts of those interviewed and the date and time of content uploaded to social media. Human Rights Watch did not use optical resolution satellite imagery to confirm the date of the analysis due to the extensive cloud cover over Kharkiv from February 28 to March 5. The lack of satellite imagery meant that Human Rights Watch could not, in most instances, clearly identify potential military targets that may have been in the vicinity of the affected civilian areas. Human Rights Watch consulted an open-source online map to locate areas labeled as belonging to the Ukrainian military in Kharkiv. A 500-meter radius was drawn around each facility on the map and checked for its proximity to the location of each incident documented.
An interactive map shows the locations of the attacks documented.
Kyivsky District, Central Kharkiv
On March 4 Elena, a scientist and resident of the Kyivsky district in central Kharkiv, spoke to Human Rights Watch by phone. She said she had left her apartment at Myronosytska Street 46 due to heavy shelling in the neighborhood. “I don’t know if my building is still standing,” she said. “Last time I saw it, all the windows were blown out and the gas was turned off.”
This part of central Kharkiv was subject to intense shelling over the first week of the war. Several incidents of this shelling are described below.
Two Kharkiv residents described an attack they witnessed on the morning of March 1 near an ATB supermarket in central Kharkiv, which killed a civilian.
Gleb, 25, said: “I saw a large line of people outside… people were trying to buy bread and water. Something exploded and one man in the line was hit. They took the man inside the supermarket. There was a lot of blood and the ambulance came.”
Alexey said that he was standing in line when he heard a loud explosion, “I was near the entrance to the supermarket waiting to go in when the explosion happened. I saw a flash and heard the sound. It was like a snap. I don’t know if they both happened at the same time, maybe a few seconds apart. After that the staff opened the doors so we could seek refuge inside.
“I rushed in and then this man was brought in. He had been standing only a few meters behind me in the line. I saw some people carry him in and put him down on the floor. He was a young guy. They called the ambulance... I didn’t see the wound, [but saw] a pool of blood next to his head and they had laid him down on his stomach. He was still alive but breathing heavily. The ambulance came quickly. They picked him up and took him away... Later we learned from the news that he was an Indian student and died in the intensive care unit.”
Indian officials confirmed that a fourth-year Indian medical student was killed in Kharkiv while standing in line to buy food.
Human Rights Watch examined the area around the ATB-market on an open-source on-line map and identified a building labelled as a military recruiting office 250 meters east of where the attack took place. None of the witnesses identified other potential military targets in the area at the time of the attack. The absence of any other such targets indicates this was an apparent indiscriminate attack.
On March 2, there was an attack that appeared to have been directed at the Office of the State Security Service (SBU), at Myronosytska Street 2, which is a military target. The shelling also caused extensive damage to civilian buildings in the vicinity, including the top floor of the economics department of V. N. Karazin Kharkiv National University, located opposite the SBU offices. In a video posted to Telegram on March 2, a fire rages as large sections of the roof fall to the ground.
Another attack on March 2 in Kyivsky district, documented by Truth Hounds, the Ukrainian human rights monitoring group, occurred two blocks north at Myronosytska Street 32. A video posted on Telegram on March 2 shows the upper floors of this and at least two other multi-story buildings nearby suffered significant damage as a result of shelling.
Ihor Gromov, a taxi driver from Kharkiv interviewed by Human Rights Watch in Lviv after he had evacuated, confirmed that the five-story building at Myronosytska Street 32 was severely damaged and burned in a March 2 attack. He also said that a section of the roof of his own neighboring building, at Myronosytska Street 34, was damaged in that attack.
Gromov was out shopping at the time of the attack and said that he returned to find that two of his neighbors had been injured. “The first thing I saw when I rushed upstairs was the guy who lives above me on the 5th floor – his body was pierced with glass shards. I took off my shirt to try to stop the bleeding. I told him to go out, to the ambulance. His neck and chest were bleeding a lot.” Gromov said that the other person, a man also living on the fifth floor, was crushed under slabs of concrete but was able to get out.
Gromov said that he did not see potential military targets in the area at the time of the attack. The absence of military targets in the immediate vicinity at the time of the attack would indicate this was an apparent indiscriminate attack.
Saltivka Neighborhood, Kyivsky District
In a telephone interview on March 2, “Oxana” said on the previous day a shell had hit her four-story building with about 100 apartments at Krychevskoho Street 42, in the northern Saltivka neighborhood of Kyivsky district, entering through the window of the top floor of the building. She said many other buildings in her neighborhood had also been hit. She was speaking from her parents’ 12-story apartment building, just minutes on foot from her own, close to Horianska Street.
In a subsequent interview, she said that at about 2 p.m. on March 2, a munition had hit the 10th floor of her parents’ building, setting it on fire.
Oxana said she was on the third floor when the munition hit and was not harmed, but that it took four hours for firefighters to extinguish the flames. At the time of the attack, she said, more than a dozen people were in the building, including at least one family on the 12th floor. She did not know whether the family was harmed. She said that a military weapons cache, several kilometers away from the populated residential neighborhood, had been hit in the days before March 2, and she was not aware of other potential military targets in the area.
Two videos and a photograph posted on Twitter and Telegram on March 1 show damage to a seven-story apartment building at Krychevskoho Street, 29, 100 meters from the building Oxana was in. A munition appears to have hit the fourth and fifth floors. The windows of other nearby apartment buildings are also damaged, as are at least two vehicles.
The apparent absence of military targets near Krychevskoho Street 29 and 42 when the attacks took place indicates these were seemingly indiscriminate attacks.
Just over three kilometers from Krychevskoho Street, the top floors on the southeast side of a high-rise apartment building next to Studentska metro station were hit, as seen in a photograph posted to Twitter on March 2. The impact sites bear the hallmarks of artillery shelling.
Schools and a Church Damaged in Kyivsky District on February 27 and March 2
Human Rights Watch documented attacks that hit two schools in Kyivsky district; Specialized School No. 134 and Specialized School No. 17.
Three videos and two photographs posted on Twitter, TikTok, and Facebook show extensive damage to Specialized School No.134, on Shevchenka Street. A video filmed from a distance and posted on February 27 on Telegram shows School 134 on fire. Another video posted to TikTok on February 28 shows extensive damage to the interior and exterior of the same school building.
A video posted to Facebook on March 2 shows a hole in the wall of a second-floor classroom of Specialized School No.17 created by a shell fired from the north. A photograph posted to Telegram, also on March 2, from inside the classroom shows desks and chairs strewn across the room with a large hole in the exterior wall.
At least one church in Kyivsky district was damaged in attacks on March 2.
Four photographs posted to Facebook by the Kharkiv diocese account on March 2 show damage to the Church of the Holy Myrrh-Bearing Women, which was less than 100 meters from the SBU building and the economics department on Myronosytska Street. The photographs reveal damage to the interior, with the windows blown out and damaged holy objects.
Saltivka Neighborhood, Moskovskyi District
Serhii, 25, said in a March 3 phone interview that the shelling of his neighborhood in Moskovskyi district, also known as Saltivka, was so intense that he, his wife, and mother-in-law had been sheltering in a basement for seven days in the freezing cold, mostly without electricity or drinking water. Approximately 100 other people were with them. “It’s been so cold in the basement that I started having seizures,” he said. “Yesterday, I went out for the first time to get some warm clothes. It is only a three-minute walk from the basement where we’ve been hiding. As I walked back, there were explosions all around me and I kept on walking, knowing that I could get hit at any second. I walked past our playground and saw a… rocket sticking out of the ground.” Serhii said that after he returned to the basement, the sounds of explosions outside intensified.
Human Rights Watch analyzed four videos and one photograph posted to Telegram on March 1 that show three damaged apartment buildings on Druzhby Narodiv Street in the neighborhood Serhii was speaking from. One of these videos shows a resident pointing to an impact site on the top floor of an 11-story building as they pack a car with water bottles and belongings. Two other nearby apartments were hit, and fire and smoke are seen rising from the sites.
On March 4 and 5 Saltivka neighborhood came under more intense attacks. Serhii said that on the morning of March 5, he saw several rockets hit three residential buildings in his district. One was a 16-story building at Rodnikovaya 9 and the two other buildings were next to it. He shared with Human Rights Watch three photographs of the burning and damaged residential buildings. Rodnikovaya 9 is approximately 500 meters from the apartment buildings on Druzhby Narodiv Street damaged in earlier strikes.
The absence of military targets in the areas at the time of the attacks indicates that these were apparent indiscriminate attacks.
Shevchenkivskyi District, Northern Kharkiv, February 28-March 1
Strike on 23 Sepnya Street
An attack on 23 Sepnya Street, on February 28 using cluster munitions killed several civilians who had reportedly come out of their shelter to collect water. Two videos posted to Telegram on February 28 show at least three bodies on the ground. Two bodies are directly outside a water dispenser with large water bottles nearby at 23. Human Rights Watch documented this attack in its reporting on the use of cluster munitions in Kharkiv on February 28.
Strike at Akhsarova Street
Tatyana, 42, a mother of 2 boys, ages 8 and 10, said that a rocket landed that morning near School No. 150 on Akhsarova St, 3а, in Shevchenkivskyi district. Her children attended the school before the hostilities broke out, and she said she saw the damage when she was forced to leave her own apartment because, “Our building was on fire and we had to go to the shelter.” Human Rights Watch analyzed a video posted to Telegram on March 1, showing parts of the west side of the school’s exterior and its surroundings. The school’s windows had been blown out, as were those of an apartment block approximately 40 meters west. The walls of the apartment block, a shed, and a tree are also visibly damaged.
Strike at 55 Sumskaya Street
On March 1, an artillery attack damaged a boarding school for children who are blind, at Sumskaya Street 55. Human Rights Watch documented this attack on March 7.
Human Rights Watch analyzed a video posted to Telegram on March 2 that shows the outside of the school and nearby street. All of the school’s windows visible in the video have been blown out. The video pans to film south on Sumskaya Street. Debris from the buildings lie in the street. At least two multi-story residential and commercial buildings have been damaged, one on each side of the street, approximately 25 meters from the school. In another video posted to Facebook on March 4, recorded from a moving car, the extent of the damage is more visible. At least six buildings with shops on the first floor and housing on the other floors are extensively damaged. A photograph posted on Facebook on March 3 clearly shows extensive damage to the two top floors of a residential and commercial building approximately 50 meters south of the school.
An open-source online map shows an area labelled as belonging to the Kozhedub Air Force University, and additional building compounds approximately one kilometer from the attacks on Sumskaya Street. Human Rights Watch has no information on any attacks directed at the Air Force University compound.
The one-kilometer distance between the potential military target and the civilian objects extensively damaged in the attacks indicates a failure to take all feasible precautions to avoid civilian harm or to respect the principle of proportionality and suggests an apparent indiscriminate attack.
University Building and a Church Hit
Human Rights Watch spoke on March 3 to a student of V. N. Karazin Kharkiv National University, Ada, who said that shelling significantly damaged one of the university’s physics and technology buildings on Akademika Kurchatova Street.
Airstrikes also hit the city council building and Sviato-Uspensky Ukrainian Orthodox Church on Universytets'ka Street. Human Rights Watch analyzed 15 photographs posted to Facebook by the Kharkiv diocese account on March 2. They show the impact on the church interior, including shattered windows and damaged holy objects. One image, with a partial view out of the window, shows debris in the street east of the church.
Kholodnohirskyi District, Western Kharkiv
Iryna Agoyeva, 45, and her 21-year-old daughter Sofia said the apartment building at Kholodnohirska 3, where her 72-year-old female relative lived, was severely damaged in an attack on March 2 and that they saw that the upper part of her building had collapsed, “[She] lives on the fourth floor… and she was hiding in the bathroom with all of her documents.”
Agoyeva said that relatives tried repeatedly to call the woman on March 2 but that she didn’t answer and that as of March 3 they had been unable to find her. The damage to the building’s top three floors was shown in a video posted to Telegram on March 2. The video also shows at least five destroyed stalls at the Kazka market, on the corner of Kholodnohirska and Poltavskyi Shliakh streets.
Kholodnohirska 3 is one kilometer northeast of the Cadet Corps State Gymnasium for Intensive Physical Training, at Poltavskyi Shliakh St. 1, a military target that was shelled on March 2.
School Damaged on February 28 - March 1
On the night of February 28 or early morning of March 1, a Grad rocket attack hit the grounds of School No.108. A video posted to Telegram on March 1 shows smoke rising from the location of the strike and a rescue worker near the impact site. At 6:47 a.m. on March 1, three photographs were posted to Telegram showing rescue workers using hoses to extinguish a large fire near the impact site. Another video posted to Telegram on March 1 captures damage to the school’s fence, recreation yard, and windows.
A video posted to Telegram on March 3 shows the remnants of a 122-millimeter Grad rocket in the parking lot outside the school, and at least four destroyed cars. Damage to the facades of residential buildings nearby is also visible.
School No. 108 is approximately 1.5 kilometers north of the Cadet Corps building.
The distance of one-to-1.5 kilometers between a military target and the civilian objects extensively damaged, indicates a failure to take all feasible precautions to avoid civilian harm or to respect the principle of proportionality and suggests an apparent indiscriminate attack.
Industrialnyi District, Southeastern Kharkiv
Olexandra fled Kharkiv on February 27 with her son, 11, on a train to Lviv via Kyiv. Olexandra said that on March 1 a blast wave from an explosion damaged her apartment building on Sharikova Street. She showed a Human Rights Watch researcher a video and two photographs taken from the outside that show her damaged balcony, and damage to another building on nearby Ivana Karacha Street.
Xenya, 45, who lives on Ivana Karacha Street with her 2 children, ages 13 and 4, described an attack on March 1 that damaged her apartment building, another apartment building at Plitochnaya Street 19a, and two schools: School No.75 and Boarding School No. 11. “All of this happened in one wave – boom, boom, boom, boom. My neighbors are pensioners, and all their windows broke… The fence around School No. 75 melted.”
Human Rights Watch analyzed a video posted to Telegram on March 2 that shows a crater outside the main entrance to School No. 75. The walls of the school are pockmarked by shrapnel and the windows of the three-story building are damaged. In a photograph and video posted on Telegram, taken approximately 350 meters north of School No.75, a crater is visible approximately 20 meters outside Boarding School No 11. The building has visible damage to its windows.
The building of a third school, Secondary School No. 118, was also damaged. A video and photograph, posted in the morning of March 2 to Telegram, shows damage to the west building of the school. The windows have been blown out and a burn mark is visible on the façade.
“Anna,” an environmental activist who lives in a development in the Vostochny neighborhood of Industrialnyi district, said in an interview that several houses in the neighborhood had completely burned down after aerial strikes on February 26 and 27. “Our basement is not suitable so myself, my parents, my brother and my 85-year-old grandmother stayed in the house. We could see bright flashes and the entire house was trembling. Last night [March 2] we heard gunfire outside.”
Two videos and nine photographs posted to Twitter and Telegram on March 1 show extensive damage to an apartment building at Novo-Bavarskyj Av. 95 and at least five bodies of civilians. The building was approximately 130 meters from City Hospital Clinic No. 3.
International Humanitarian Law
The laws of war require the parties to a conflict to take constant care during military operations to spare the civilian population and to “take all feasible precautions” to avoid or minimize civilian harm and damage to civilian objects. These precautions include doing everything feasible to verify that the objects of attack are military objectives and not civilians or civilian objects and giving “effective advance warning” to civilians when circumstances permit.
The laws of war prohibit attacks directed at civilians or civilian objects, indiscriminate attacks, attacks that have disproportionate effects on civilians, as well as extensive destruction of property, not justified by military necessity and carried out unlawfully and wantonly. The International Criminal Court has jurisdiction in Ukraine to prosecute such attacks or destruction as war crimes. Previous war crimes tribunals have held that a single act, if significant in scope such as the destruction of a hospital, may suffice to constitute the offense of unlawful and wanton destruction.
Under the laws of war, civilian objects are any that are not military. Military objectives are only those that by their nature, location, purpose, or use make an effective contribution to military action and whose partial or total destruction, capture, or neutralization, in the circumstances ruling at the time, offers a definite military advantage.
Ukrainian authorities are required under international humanitarian law, as far as feasible, to take “necessary precautions to protect the civilian population, individual civilians and civilian objects under their control against the dangers resulting from military operations.” To this end they should take all feasible measures to ensure that civilians have access to appropriate spaces to shelter safely during hostilities and provide as much guidance and advice as possible to civilians on options and means for safe shelter.
Attacks that damage schools in Ukraine are a devastating blow in a country where conflict over the past eight years has already been detrimental to education. According to UNICEF at least 750 schools have been damaged or destroyed in eastern Ukraine since the conflict began in 2014. Russia has yet to endorse the Safe Schools Declaration, which Ukraine endorsed in November 2019, but both parties have obligations to respect and protect the civilian nature of schools, students, and education personnel. Under the International Criminal Court's statute, it is a war crime to intentionally direct attacks against buildings dedicated to education. Russia should refrain from committing attacks that cause harm to students, educational staff, and institutions.
Both Russia and Ukraine have obligations to ensure access for humanitarian assistance to civilians and to take all feasible steps to allow civilians who want to, to evacuate safely, whether an agreement to establish humanitarian corridors is put into effect or not. Ukraine, and Russia in the areas that it exercises effective control over or occupies, should ensure that there is adequate supply of food, water, and medicine, and that services vital for the civilian population continue.
Russian and Ukrainian forces should facilitate organized evacuations of civilians in and around Kharkiv who want to leave. All parties must abide by their obligations not to carry out attacks that would target or cause indiscriminate or disproportionate harm to civilians while they are leaving, including along railway and road routes.