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Ukraine: Ukrainian fighting tactics endanger civilians

Military bases set up in residential areas including schools and hospitals
 
Attacks launched from populated civilian areas
 
    Such violations in no way justify Russia’s indiscriminate attacks, which have killed and injured countless civilians 
 
Part 2 - Launching strikes from populated civilian areas
 
Survivors and witnesses of Russian strikes in the Donbas, Kharkiv and Mykolaiv regions told Amnesty International researchers that the Ukrainian military had been operating near their homes around the time of the strikes, exposing the areas to retaliatory fire from Russian forces. Amnesty International researchers witnessed such conduct in numerous locations.

International humanitarian law requires all parties to a conflict to avoid locating, to the maximum extent feasible, military objectives within or near densely populated areas. Other obligations to protect civilians from the effects of attacks include removing civilians from the vicinity of military objectives and giving effective warning of attacks that may affect the civilian population.

The mother of a 50-year-old man killed in a rocket attack on 10 June in a village south of Mykolaiv told Amnesty International: “The military were staying in a house next to our home and my son often took food to the soldiers. I begged him several times to stay away from there because I was afraid for his safety. That afternoon, when the strike happened, my son was in the courtyard of our home and I was in the house. He was killed on the spot. His body was ripped to shreds. Our home was partially destroyed.” Amnesty International researchers found military equipment and uniforms at the house next door.

Mykola, who lives in a tower block in a neighbourhood of Lysychansk (Donbas) that was repeatedly struck by Russian attacks which killed at least one older man, told Amnesty International: “I don’t understand why our military is firing from the cities and not from the field.” Another resident, a 50-year-old man, said: “There is definitely military activity in the neighbourhood. When there is outgoing fire, we hear incoming fire afterwards.” Amnesty International researchers witnessed soldiers using a residential building some 20 metres from the entrance of the underground shelter used by the residents where the older man was killed.

In one town in Donbas on 6 May, Russian forces used widely banned and inherently indiscriminate cluster munitions over a neighbourhood of mostly single or two-storey homes where Ukrainian forces were operating artillery. Shrapnel damaged the walls of the house where Anna, 70, lives with her son and 95-year-old mother.

Anna said: “Shrapnel flew through the doors. I was inside. The Ukrainian artillery was near my field… The soldiers were behind the field, behind the house… I saw them coming in and out… since the war started… My mother is… paralyzed, so I couldn’t flee.

In early July, a farm worker was injured when Russian forces struck an agricultural warehouse in the Mykolaiv area. Hours after the strike, Amnesty International researchers witnessed the presence of Ukrainian military personnel and vehicles in the grain storage area, and witnesses confirmed that the military had been using the warehouse, located across the road from a farm where civilians are living and working.

While Amnesty International researchers were examining damage to residential and adjacent public buildings in Kharkiv and in villages in Donbas and east of Mykolaiv, they heard outgoing fire from Ukrainian military positions nearby.

In Bakhmut, several residents told Amnesty International that the Ukrainian military had been using a building barely 20 metres across the street from a residential high-rise building. On 18 May, a Russian missile struck the front of the building, partly destroying five apartments and damaging nearby buildings. Kateryna, a resident who survived the strike, said: “I didn’t understand what happened. [There were] broken windows and a lot of dust in my home… I stayed here because my mother didn’t want to leave. She has health problems.

Three residents told Amnesty International that before the strike, Ukrainian forces had been using a building across the street from the bombed building, and that two military trucks were parked in front of another house that was damaged when the missile hit. Amnesty International researchers found signs of military presence in and outside the building, including sandbags and black plastic sheeting covering the windows, as well as new US-made trauma first aid equipment.

We have no say in what the military does, but we pay the price,” a resident whose home was also damaged in the strike told Amnesty International.

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