Russians may have shelled Kherson with cluster munitions after fleeing city, says Human Rights Watch

13 December 2022, 02:20 PM
Human Rights Watch finds evidence of possible Russian war crimes in Kherson (Photo:Anna Voitenko/Reuters)

Human Rights Watch finds evidence of possible Russian war crimes in Kherson (Photo:Anna Voitenko/Reuters)

Russian troops may have used cluster munitions while shelling residential areas of Kherson after fleeing the city, the international human rights organization Human Rights Watch reported on Dec. 13.

At least three such cases have been recorded since Russian forces retreated from the city, Human Rights Watch said.

“Residents of Kherson survived eight months of Russian occupation, and are finally free from fear of torture, only to be subjected to new indiscriminate attacks, apparently including cluster munitions,” said Belkis Wille, an associate director at the crisis and conflict division at Human Rights Watch.

Video of day

Human Rights Watch researchers were in the city of Kherson on Nov. 20-24, and during those five days, Russian attacks on the city intensified.

An attack using cluster munitions that was recorded on Nov. 21 injured three people. The next day, the Human Rights Watch team visited the scene of the attack and identified the places where the cluster munitions fell. The evidence suggests they were fired from the south.

Two other similar cases were also recorded, the organization said in its report.

“The concentration of the impact sites, the presence of the stabilizer ribbons next to two of the impact sites, and the direction of the fragmentation patterns, together with the witnesses’ descriptions of the attacks, indicate that the attack used cluster munitions,” the report said.

Meanwhile, the presence of Ukrainian servicemen in Kherson is notably limited. Most security forces are police officers who perform law enforcement functions, the human rights organization said.

"Given the indiscriminate nature of cluster munitions and their foreseeable consequences for the civilian population, their use in Kherson may be a war crime and should be investigated,” Human Rights Watch said.

“These attacks are carried out without regard for the lives of the civilian population. They are a direct refutation of Russia's statements that it strikes only the military.

“Notwithstanding the existence of a legitimate military target, an attack is indiscriminate and unlawful if it uses a method or means of combat the effects of which cannot be limited to military objects. Given the inherently indiscriminate nature of cluster munitions and their foreseeable effects on civilians, their use in Kherson might constitute a war crime and should be investigated.”

“These attacks are being carried out with no apparent regard for civilian life,” Wille said. “They are a direct rebuke to claims by Russia that it is only targeting the military.”

After the retreat of the Russian troops from Kherson on Nov. 11, the Russians began shelling the city almost every day.

In an attack on Dec. 12, two people were killed and five more injured.

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