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By Kris Osborn - President, Center for Military Modernization

The Russian willingness to deliberately target civilian areas such as apartment complexes and residential areas with indiscriminately fire unguided missiles, rockets and bombs clearly intended for non-military targets is now well known, widely documented and condemned by more than 50-countries around the world.

These attacks, which have killed and injured roughly 1,000 children since the beginning of the war, have also been accompanied by consistent, documented reports of atrocities and war crimes committed against Ukrainian soldiers and non-combatants for months. A write up in International News.Az cites the Prosecutor General’s Office of Ukraine reporting preliminary figures that as many as 376 children have been killed in Ukraine as as many as 733 others injured. Given the scope of Russian bombing in civilian areas, these number may indeed be much higher.

The Ukrainian national flag is seen in front of a school which, according to local residents, was on fire after shelling, as Russia's invasion of Ukraine continues, in Kharkiv, Ukraine February 28, 2022.

The Ukrainian national flag is seen in front of a school which, according to local residents, was on fire after shelling, as Russia's invasion of Ukraine continues, in Kharkiv, Ukraine February 28, 2022.

Beneath the surface of these more visible and broadly recognized direct attacks against children and other innocent Ukrainian victims, there is also a growing sphere of lesser known atrocities such as evidence of widespread, systematic bombing of Ukrainian healthcare facilities, museums, cultural heritage sites and even educational institutions. The Prosecutor General’s Office says 2,300 educational institutions have been damaged.

A series of detailed reports from the Yale School of Public Health’s Humanitarian Research Lab published satellite photos and large amounts of aggregated evidence to show the actual extent of the devastation and murder pursued by Russian attackers.

One such Yale report, published earlier this year, is called “Evidence of Widespread and Systematic Bombardment of Ukrainian Healthcare Facilities.” The text of the report is extensive, stating that during the course of roughly one month from February to March of 2022, 22 Ukrainian Healthcare facilities were attacked, according to evidence uncovered by Yale’s Humanitarian Research Lab (HRL).

“The HRL verified damage through cross-corroboration of very high resolution satellite imagery and open source information. Based on a review of nearly 300 facilities across five cities and regions, the HRL has concluded that Russia-aligned forces have engaged in widespread and systematic bombardment of Ukrainian healthcare facilities,” the text of the report cites.

The HRL report is clear to specify that it is not taking a position as to whether these attacks are “indiscriminate” or “deliberate,” but says that either way, the attacks are a war crime.

“The initial report does not attempt to determine whether an individual incident of a healthcare facility being bombarded is the result of indiscriminate fire or intentional targeting. It is important to note that both indiscriminate and intentional targeting of healthcare facilities can constitute a war crime,” the HRL report states.

For instance, citing both satellite imagery and open source evidence, the HRL report identifies as many as 14 Healthcare facilities in the city of Maripol either totally or partially destroyed by Russian attacks. Other cities are identified as well, including Kyiv, Izyum and Chernihiv. According to the summary statistics detailed in the report, destruction to healthcare facilities in these areas is also accompanied by damage to surrounding neighborhoods. The HRL statistics also lists “supporting open source material.” 

Russian Attacks on Hospitals, Schools & Cultural Landmarks

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Mass Graves

Consolidated and carefully analyzed evidence of “disturbed earth” and directly sourced “eyewitness” accounts of torture are murder cited in a Yale University Humanitarian Research Laboratory report paint a en extremely disturbing picture of Russian atrocities and war crimes in Ukraine.

While much of this has already entered public consciousness and generated international actions and several investigations, the Yale report combines first-hand accounts with carefully analyzed imagery.

Extensive geospatial analysis of images and open source investigations of additional evidence, the report states, reveal locations entirely consistent with the digging of mass graves. Citing “disturbed earth” at Volnovakha Correctional Colony, the Yale HRL report identifies “two areas of distrubed earth present in the South and Southwest sections of the Volnovakha Correctional Colony grounds. The disturbed earth in the Southwest corner of the facility is directly adjacent to the barracks where POWs are reportedly held.”

The Yale HRL report further corroborates this by quoting an eyewitness testimonial translated from Ukrainian TV saying prisoners were “beaten” and that he was “forced to dig a mass grave.”

One item referenced in the report points to imagery captured on July 27, 2022 showing “eight parallel rows of disturbed earth averaging 16.29 meters in length and 2.71 meters in width.” To even the untrained human eye, this sounds like the ground contours were similar to what a human grave dug into the ground would look like.

The research, photographs and open source analysis contained in the report seems to advance well beyond the now widely circulated anecdotal reports and eyewitness accounts of Russian war crimes and add critical depth, context and credibility to the issue.

There are now numerous investigations from international human rights organizations, international courts and other entities now extensively familiar with reports of Russian war crimes.

An experienced U.S. Air Force leader told The National Interest that he expects Putin to wind up in International Criminal Court for what seems to be a deliberate attempt to murder children, innocent civilians, hospital patients, and pregnant mothers.

"The Russians philosophy is not one that is concurrent with the laws of armed conflict, or the Geneva Convention,” said retired U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. David Deptula, now dean of the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies. “The actual statistics over the last two weeks is that the Russians have attacked hospitals in over eighteen circumstances. I'm here to tell you that I'm pretty certain that we're going to see Vladimir Putin in front of the International Criminal Court and prosecuted not unlike (former Serbian president Slobodan) Milošević.”

Deptula was the principal attack planner for the Desert Storm coalition air campaign in 1991, and later director of the Combined Air Operations Center for Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan in late 2001. Both campaigns were noted for their use of precision-guided munitions

Kris Osborn is the defense editor for the National Interest. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army—Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has appeared as a guest military expert on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also has a Master’s Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.

Kris Osborn, Warrior Maven President

Kris Osborn, Warrior Maven President, Center for Military Modernization