The Russian military’s siege warfare tactics in Ukraine, marked by relentless indiscriminate attacks on densely-populated areas, are unlawfully killing civilians in several cities, Amnesty International said today in a new on-the-ground investigation.
For the first time, Amnesty International field investigators in Ukraine have independently verified physical evidence of banned cluster munitions, the use of which violates international law. They have also collected testimony that documents Russian siege tactics, including unlawful indiscriminate attacks, disruption of basic utilities, cuts to communication, destruction of civilian infrastructure, and restrictions on access to medicine and healthcare.
In recent weeks, Russian forces have been using inherently indiscriminate weapons – such as cluster munitions, and inaccurate weapons with wide-area effects such as unguided ‘dumb’ bombs and Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (MLRS) salvos – in attacks on densely-populated civilian areas.
As such, Russian forces’ assaults on towns and cities and wanton destruction of the infrastructure of daily life violates international humanitarian law and international human rights law. Launching indiscriminate attacks which kill or injure civilians also constitute war crimes.
“A defining feature of these cruel sieges is Russia’s relentless indiscriminate attacks, which cause utterly devastating harm over time,” said Joanne Mariner, Director of Amnesty International’s Crisis Response Programme.
“For five weeks now, civilians across Ukraine have seen their cities razed day-by-day. Our on-the-ground research has documented how some of society’s most at-risk people are disproportionately suffering as these brutal siege tactics continue.
“Civilians trapped in cities under siege must urgently have access to humanitarian corridors to enable the safe evacuation of all who wish to leave. Humanitarian supplies must also be allowed to reach those who remain behind.”
Amnesty International conducted in-person and remote interviews with people who experienced sieges in five cities, including Kharkiv and Mariupol. Amnesty International’s Crisis Evidence Lab analyzed relevant satellite imagery, and verified videos and photos of the incidents described below. In the coming weeks, Amnesty International will publish further evidence gathered during on-the-ground investigations in Ukraine.