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Four days since the invasion, Russian forces have begun looting property in occupied territories

Four days since the invasion, Russian forces have begun looting property in occupied territories
Four days since the invasion, Russian forces have begun looting property in occupied territories
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Truth Hounds

The third analytical brief in a series of publications on war crimes in the wake of Russia’s military aggression in Ukraine, prepared by Truth Hounds. This document presents evidence of war crimes for the fourth day of the invasion, covering the period 00:00-23:59 EET, February 27 2022, presented by Truth Hounds.

Intentional attacks on civilians and civilian objects

Targeted attacks by Russian troops against civilians in the occupied area in the south of Kherson Oblast continue. On the morning of 27 February, an elderly man on a bicycle was shot in the back in Nova Kakhovka.[1]

At the infamous railway crossing in Nova Kakhovka where civilians were previously attacked,[2] Russians shot a civilian car carrying a family of four. A man was killed, while his two daughters and his wife were injured.[3]

The body of a man who was killed by the Russian military on 27 February 2022 in Nova Kakhovka.

In the city of Berdyansk, which was occupied by Russian troops unopposed on 27 February,[4] Russian forces shot a local resident who refused to hand over his mobile phone to the occupiers.[5]

All these cases are obvious and gross violations of international humanitarian law (IHL), namely deliberate attack on protected (civilian) persons who did not take part in the armed conflict.

In Chernihiv, a rocket struck a cinema building on the city’s central square, where a youth centre was located. Chernihiv Regional State Administration noted that this was a rocket attack.[6] As a result of the impact, the building suffered significant internal damage.

Results of the shelling of the cinema in Chernihiv, 27.02.2022.

According to the Secretary of Chernihiv City Council, Oleksandr Lomako, the target of the artillery strike was the Chernihiv City Council building. Instead, a pediatric dental clinic, a dental clinic, administrative buildings, and multistorey residential buildings were destroyed.[7] The city library was also damaged.[8] According to the Strategic Communications and Information Security Centre, 16 people were injured during the shelling in Chernihiv on February 27.[9]

A shell crater near to the city library, Chernihiv, 27.02.2022.

Large-calibre artillery shelling of residential areas in the northern part of Kharkiv continued for the third day in a row. Shells struck the courtyards of multistorey buildings, near playgrounds, or directly in residents’ outbuildings.[10]

An artillery shell that impacted near a playground, Saltivka District, Kharkiv, 27.02.2022.

At 14:59 EET (UTC+2), on 27 February, the emergency fire service phoneline received a report of a fire in a four-storey apartment building in Zhuravlivka District in northeastern Kharkiv. It is reported that an artillery shell struck the building. As a result of the impact, five apartments and the roof of a house with an area of 400 square metres were set on fire. There is currently no available data concerning victims.

As a result of an artillery attack with unidentified weaponry, at least four private homes and cars were destroyed or damaged on the western outskirts of Kharkiv, in the village of Zalyutyne. There is currently no data concerning either victims or nearby military facilities.[11]

Consequences of artillery shelling of Zalyutyne District, Kharkiv, 27.02.2022.

Around midnight on 27 February, artillery shelling began in the town of Izyum. As a result of the shelling, apartments, private houses, and cars were destroyed and damaged. There is currently no information about the victims.[12]

The consequences of the evening shelling of Izium, 27 February, 27.02.2022.

On 27 February, the village of Kunye in Izyum District came under shelling. Shells struck the centre of the village and knocked down a school and a two-storey house nearby. This incident was reported on 27 February on the Instagram page of the television channel “Izyum TV”.[13] Information about the victims was shared by the Secretary of Kunye Village Council. Three people were killed during the shelling – two died immediately, one died in hospital. Two more people were injured.[14]

A school in the village of Kunye, Kharkiv Oblast that was affected by artillery shelling on 27 February 2022.

On 27 February, Sartana, a village near Mariupol, was shelled again.[15] There is currently no information concerning victims. Mariupol City Council organised the evacuation of the elderly, women, and children from the village. At 17:00 the same day, Mariupol City Council announced an attempt by Russian sabotage and reconnaissance groups to fire on a bus escorted by national police which was carrying residents of apartment buildings destroyed by Russian airstrikes on a residential area on Peremohy Avenue on the Left Bank. The Mayor of Mariupol reported on prompt response and the destruction of sabotage and reconnaissance groups.[16]

On 27 February, the head of Luhansk Regional State Administration, Serhiy Haidai, gave an update on the situation in the cities of Shchastya and Stanytsia Luhanska. He reported that these settlements remain occupied by troops of the Russian Federation, with communications cut off and without food provision.[17] It became known that during the battle for Volnovakha, as a result of shelling by the so-called “Donetsk People’s Republic” (DNR), all communications infrastructure and housing estates, as well as the otolaryngology department of the hospital were damaged. Now, 11 injured residents need to be assisted, communications need to be restored, and food and water must be delivered.[18]

Volnovakha, aftermath of the shelling of the otolaryngology department of the hospital, 27.02.2022.

Indiscriminate attacks that cause disproportionate military superiority in comparison to damage to civilians and civilian objects

The armed conflict between Russia and Ukraine is currently in an active phase. Truth Hounds therefore relies heavily on open-source information in this study. Documenters do not always have the confidence beyond reasonable doubt to establish the intent of attacks on civilian targets, in other words, it is not always possible to establish with certainty the presence or absence of military targets near affected civilian targets. Even assuming that, in the case of some of the shelling described above, legitimate military targets were located near civilian targets, the attacks still violated IHL as they were indiscriminate. It is impossible to imagine a military target that would justify an attack that would cause the kind of destruction that Chernihiv, Kharkiv, and the towns and villages around these regional centres suffered on this day. Thus, while the targets of some of the attacks described in the previous section have not yet been identified, the shelling still violated IHL due to the disproportionate potential military advantage compared to civilians and civilian objects.

Attacks on medical staff and medical facilities

A children’s dental clinic was shelled in the centre of Chernihiv,[19][20] as were adjacent buildings. Attacks against medical facilities violate IHL as long as they are not used as military facilities. It is important that the presence of individual soldiers in a medical institution does not turn such an institution into a military target. Accordingly, the documented case is a war crime.

Use of human shields

Almost from the beginning of the day, information began to appear concerning attempts by the military of the Russian Federation to use so-called human shields. That is to say, seeking to use buses carrying civilians provide cover for positions used to launch military attacks – civilians were led to believe that they were to be evacuated from areas where active hostilities were taking place.

The use of human shields is expressly prohibited by the Third and Fourth Geneva Conventions, Additional Protocol I, and customary international law. The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court calls for the prohibition of using civilians to provide cover for military targets. It does not matter whether the civilians volunteered to be near the military or military facility. What matters is the very fact that civilians are used as protection from a potential attack on the military, military vehicles, and other military facilities.

If the preliminary information from Bucha, Kyiv Oblast and Kherson is confirmed, the use of civilians by the armed forces of the Russian Federation should be considered a war crime.

Private property capture

Between 10:10 and 10:35, on 27 February, Russian troops robbed a grocery store in the centre of the village of Makoshyne, Mena District, Chernihiv Oblast.[21] [22] [23]

Screenshot with information about the robbery, 27.02.2022.
Screenshot with information about the robbery, 27.02.2022.

As of 14:52, the Russian military robbed two more shops.[24]

Screenshot with information about the robbery, 27.02.2022.

A common rule concerning respect to private property in case of an armed conflict provides a ban on the capture of private property. This ban, among others, is enshrined in the Hague Convention of 1907. However, it is not absolute. The Hague Convention and customary IHL allows for the capture of private property when military necessity requires it. Therewith, it is expected that the value of the seized property will be compensated to the rightful owner. In earlier described cases, captured property can be theoretically considered as such if its seizure was necessary for a successful military operation by a side of the conflict. However, today there is no reason to think that seized property will be compensated. Property capture took the form of a robbery, not an organised seizure, because it was chaotic and unaccounted. Accordingly, we can consider it an IHL violation in terms of the inadmissibility of private property seizure and perhaps also a war crime.

[1] “В Новой Каховке застрелили пенсионера. Возвращался на велосипеде с дачи, — сообщают местные СМИ”, Украина Online Новости Война Россия, 27.02.22 at 16:30, available at: https://t.me/UkrainaOnlline/19134.

[2] 46°44’47.1″N 33°23’35.0″E.

[3] “No title”, facebook, 27.02.22 at 20:24, available at: https://www.facebook.com/tsyhipa/posts/5629532223740046.

[4] “Срочное обращение исполняющего обязанности городского головы г. Бердянска  Александра Свидло!”, 27.02.22 at 20:27, available at: https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=1873131029741637&id=100011342747545.

[5] “No title”, Бердянск Сейчас, 27.02.22 at 11:11, available at: https://t.me/brdVP/82.

“СИТУАЦІЯ ЩОДО РОСІЙСЬКОГО ВТОРГНЕННЯ 28.02.2022 СТАНОМ НА 12:00”, 28.02.22 at 13:30, available at: https://www.zoda.gov.ua/news/59562/situatsiya-shodo-rosiyskogo-vtorgnennya-28.02.2022-stanom-na-1200.html.

[6] “У Чернігові ракета влучила у будівлю Молодіжного центру” Цензор.НЕТ, 27.02.22 at 21:57, available at: https://t.me/censor_net/8929.

[7]   “No title”. Facebook, 27.02.22 at 14:48, available at: https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=5292695967427668&id=100000619510894.

[8] “Центр мого міста” 27.02.22, available at: https://www.facebook.com/100000402658829/posts/5050560871633951/?sfnsn=mo.

[9]  “No title”. Facebook, 27.02.22 at 20:10, available at: https://www.facebook.com/StratcomCentreUA/posts/298392072360780.

[10] No title. ХС.Харьков, 27.02.22 at 09:49, available at: https://t.me/c/1347456995/38976.

[11] No title. ХС.Харьков. 27.02.22 at 12:18, available at: https://t.me/c/1347456995/38991.

[12] “No title”, Типичный Харьков, 27.02.22 at 23:48, available at: https://t.me/kharkiv_typical/13528.

[13] “No title”, Instagram, 27.02.22, available at: https://www.instagram.com/tv/CaeiT0rjiND/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link.

[14] “No title”, Instagram, 27.02.22, available at: https://www.instagram.com/p/CaemXRPN2so/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link.

[15]«Вадим Бойченко: «Маріуполь допоможе евакуювати жителів Сартани», Маріупольська міська рада, 27.02.2022, 09:57, available at: https://t.me/mariupolrada/8546.

[16] «На пост-мосту диверсійно-розвідувальна група росії намагалася атакувати автобуси з людьми», Маріуполь – офіційний сайт міської ради, 27.02.2022, 17:20, available at: https://mariupolrada.gov.ua/news/na-post-mostu-diversijno-rozviduvalna-grupa-rosii-namagalasja-atakuvati-avtobusi-z-ljudmi.

[17] «Щастя та Станиця Луганська на межі гуманітарної катастрофи, – Сергій Гайдай», Facebook, 27.02.2022, 19:20, available at: https://www.facebook.com/sergey.gaidai.loga/posts/132382285967830?__cft__[0]=AZW60g8XM4Yq0iYOfFAw8SBRRbPi28WI9TJdPNXxR_vnKHFkTpEGP9AjFQea2NNuohOYw2IJ68w5Fm7y1LFh0pM1DN-J5QzULe71OZl1J4KYX60_fjkElE8ULVDvAdScQ9Z7QoP-LsyQA54uf_qY6gH4&__tn__=%2CO%2CP-R.

[18] “No title”, Facebook, 27.02.22 at 13:13, available at: https://www.facebook.com/100005587749108/posts/1798885030307738/?d=n.

[19] “No title”, Facebook, 27.02.22 at 20:24, available at: https://www.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=65980831189181&id=100035879568019.

[20] “No title”, Facebook, 27.02.22, available at: https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=5051073621581515&id=100000367826172&sfnsn=mo.

[21] Скріншот, facebook.com, дата публікації: 10:10 27.02.22, пряме посилання: https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=1086337852099131&id=100021687781683.

[22] Скріншот, facebook.com, дата публікації: 10:35 27.02.22, пряме посилання: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1329361167218393/posts/2220131278141373/.

[23] Witness evidence: вихідець з с. Макошине Корнієнко Богдан.

[24] Скріншот, facebook.com, дата публікації: 14:52 27.02.22, пряме посилання: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1329361167218393/permalink/2220266691461165/.


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