Russians attacked nearly three thousand Ukrainian civilian targets

Russian attacks with missiles, attack drones or artillery on Ukrainian territory have hit almost three thousand civilian targets since the large-scale invasion of February 2022. The British human rights organization arrives at this sum Center for Information Resilience (CIR) that independently investigates human rights violations and war crimes in Ukraine. Based on public and verified information, the center mapped out all Russian attacks in Ukraine over the past two years that resulted in civilian casualties or damage or destruction to public facilities in the country.

The count – from February 24, 2022 to January this year – amounts to a total of 2,642 incidents. The number of attacks on civilian targets increased last year, from 1,014 in 2022 to 1,496 in 2023. Last January, the researchers counted 132. The researchers analyzed the Russian attacks based on, among other things, satellite images, photos and videos on social media. They primarily damaged educational institutions, but also religious and cultural buildings and health facilities such as hospitals.

The Donetsk region, in eastern Ukraine, was hit most often: a third of all airstrikes on civilian targets took place in this region. This is followed by the regions of Kherson in the south and Kharkiv in the northeast of the country. Educational facilities, such as school buildings, kindergartens, universities and sports centers, account for more than a quarter of all civilian targets that were hit: 775.

In Kharkiv, for example, a 218-year-old university library was hit after a Russian airstrike, as well as a boarding school for the visually impaired. In addition, 546 structures that fall under so-called ‘critical civil infrastructure’ were damaged or destroyed. This includes bridges, dams, power stations, telecommunications institutions, railway stations, airports and ports. Hospitals and other medical accommodations were also frequently targeted by Moscow. The British researchers counted 293 hospitals and other health institutions.

The focus of the Russian attacks on those medical facilities was in the Donetsk region in the east of the country, through which a large part of the front line passes. Furthermore, the researchers verified 374 attacks on religious and cultural institutions, such as churches, mosques, museums and other buildings with a cultural background. As a final category, the CIR distinguished 325 damaged and destroyed civilian targets in the food sector. This includes buildings where food products are produced and transported.

According to Belén Carrasco Rodríguez, director of CIR’s ‘Eyes on Russia’ project, the investigation found evidence that Russia “deliberately selected hospitals and schools” as targets. “We have seen a pattern of attacks against places and institutions that serve no military purpose, from energy facilities to schools, hospitals and churches.” Carrasco Rodríguez sees the attacks on such civilian accommodations, which are protected under international law, as a “clear attempt to make life impossible for the civilians left behind.”

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