Russian forces hit Ukrainian hospital with cluster bomb used in Syria: HRW

Russian forces hit Ukrainian hospital with cluster bomb used in Syria: HRW
2 min read
27 February, 2022
As Russian Defence Ministry compares Ukrainian forces to “international terrorists in Syria”, HRW discover the use of same munitions used to kill civilians in Idlib in 2020
Ukrainian civilians were hit by clusterbomb shrapnel which wounded healthcare workers and patients alike [Getty]

Russian forces dropped cluster munitions just outside a hospital in Vuhledar, eastern Ukraine on Thursday, killing four civilians and injuring another 10, according to Human Rights Watch. 

Through photographs of remnants supplied by hospital staff, the bomb used in the attack was identified as a cluster munition warhead delivered by a Tochka ballistic missile - the same as those used to kill 12 civilians at a school in Sarmin, northern Syria in January 2020. 

Both Russia and Ukraine stockpile the weapon. 

Because of their indiscriminate impact and threat to civilian life, cluster munitions are banned under an international treaty signed by 110 parties - though neither Russia, Syria nor Ukraine are signatories to the treaty. 

“This callous attack has killed and injured civilians, and damaged a hospital,” said Steve Goose, arms director of Human Rights Watch. “Russian forces should stop using cluster munitions and end unlawful attacks with weapons that indiscriminately kill and maim.”

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The strike bore resemblance to attacks on densely populated civilian areas in Syria by Russian forces since they intervened militarily on behalf of the Syrian regime in late 2015. 

The hospital’s chief doctor, Natalia Sosyura, described the attack in Vuhledar: “I was on the first floor of our two-story building. I heard a loud explosion outside, we ran into the hallway. Luckily, we didn't have many patients. It was around 10:30 in the morning. We all fell to the floor.”

Meanwhile, Russian state news agency Tass stated that “there are no threats whatsoever to the civilian population” during the current invasion, and reported Russian Defence Ministry accusations against the Ukrainian military of using “terrorist tactics” during clashes - sparking fears of a campaign of dehumanisation in Ukraine to excuse indiscriminate attacks. 

"Nationalist battalions are using so-called ‘Bandera cars’ which are cross-country vehicles with large-caliber firearms or mortars mounted on them. Let me remind that this tactic is practiced by international terrorists in Syria", Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said.