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UN: Russian Missile Attacks on Ukraine’s Civilian Targets Could Amount to War Crimes

Police inspect and document the scene of a Russian missile strike, in Kyiv, Ukraine, Oct. 10, 2022.
Police inspect and document the scene of a Russian missile strike, in Kyiv, Ukraine, Oct. 10, 2022.

GENEVA — The Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights says missile attacks by Russia’s armed forces against civilian targets and infrastructure across several cities in Ukraine Monday could amount to war crimes.

The U.N. reports Russian attacks on nearly a dozen cities including Kyiv, Dnipro, and Zaporizhzhia, have killed at least 20 civilians and injured more than 100.

U.N. monitors say the series of attacks appears to have been coordinated. They say the location and timing of the strikes when people were commuting to work and taking children to school is particularly shocking.

U.N. human rights spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani said critical civilian infrastructure, including at least 12 energy facilities, were targeted. She noted some of these facilities may be indispensable for the survival of the civilian population just ahead of the cold winter months.

“We have seen the story of elderly people trapped in their homes. People with disabilities were also unable to flee. I mean, this is unconscionable,” she said. “We have to stress that intentionally directing attacks against civilians and civilian objects, that is, objects which are not military objectives, amounts to a war crime.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin says the missile attacks were in retaliation for what he called a terrorist blast that destroyed parts of a bridge connecting Russia to the Crimean Peninsula.

Shamdasani said Russian-targeted attacks have destroyed or damaged many residential buildings and key power stations. She warned that the lack of a steady supply of energy to stave off the winter cold will likely put the lives of particularly vulnerable people at risk.

“We urge the Russian Federation to refrain from further escalation, and to take all feasible measures to prevent civilian casualties and damage to civilian infrastructure,” she said.

Shamdasani noted that the U.N. Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine will keep tabs on the evolution of the war in Ukraine. She saaid the mission will continue to corroborate civilian casualties resulting from these attacks and document violations of human rights and international humanitarian law throughout the country.