Kyiv, July 7, 2016. Human rights activists and investigators have been studying the conflict in eastern Ukraine for eighteen months. Since then, they have examined the legality of shelling Mariupol, Volnovakha, Kramatorsk – places that had the largest number of civilian casualties in the summer and autumn of 2014. They have also investigated bombardments and attacks on six villages in Luhansk region, where the sloped angle of craters indicates that the shelling was carried out, most likely, from the Russian Federation. This was stated by Svitlana Valko, coordinator of field missions in Ukraine, IPHR, at a briefing at Ukraine Crisis Media Center. “Tube, rocket and missile artillery were used to fire at least five villages in Luhansk region from the Russian territory. During the shelling of two of them, there was an attack on civilian targets, civilians were wounded, and 29 houses were destroyed. A sixth village – Krasna Talivka – was subject to a Russian military attack, the military subsequently retreated to the territory of the Russian Federation,” stated Ms. Valko. According to her, the experts compared satellite maps before, during and after the attacks which show traces of artillery fire and subsequent damage. The activists traced messages Russian servicemen from Tarasivskyi district, Rostov region of Russia, from where attacks were carried out. In addition, they interviewed 45 civilians and border guards, who served on the border with Russia at that time.
According to Svitlana Valko, all the evidence will be handed over to the International Criminal Court. “The evidence includes cases of tortures, abductions, the use of people as hostages and “human shields,” disproportionate shelling of civilian and protected objects: schools, hospitals, religious buildings, etc.,” explained the expert. She stressed that the experts use at least three sources before presenting information as evidence.
Oleksandr Delemenchuk, Advisor at “Truth Hounds,” noted that at the diplomatic level debates still persist whether the conflict in Ukraine is international or domestic. There are many speculations on this subject. “Under international humanitarian law, if one country invades another country’s territory, these actions can be qualified as an international armed conflict. The attack on those two civilian objects [in the villages in Luhansk region] forms the crime according to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court “causing excessive unintentional injuries, death and destruction.” In fact, it was the use of civilian objects and persons, which allowed them to perform certain military tasks,” noted Ms. Delemenchuk. According to her, along with the testimony of other specialized organizations, it will be possible to reenact Russia’s intervention in Ukraine later.
Oleg Martynenko, head of the analytical department at the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union, noted that only by combining the resources of many specialized organizations one can see a more or less holistic picture. “This study is an example of a holistic approach. That is why it is unique,” he added.
“So far, there has been no investigation conducted by Ukraine. If for some reason Ukraine cannot conduct it, we expect the International Criminal Court to do it. We have been cooperating with the Court for over a year, and we are trying to provide quality information on the crimes in Ukraine,” said Simon Papuashvili, project manager, IPHR (Belgium).