A rocket flies into a shopping center in Kremenchuk – people are killed, injured, the building destroyed. Thousands of Ukrainians have been killed in Russia’s war of aggression so far. Every day we are confronted with new images of the destruction and suffering of the people in Ukraine. Nevertheless, the Russian government, headed by Vladimir Putin, repeatedly claims: “The Russian army does not attack civilian infrastructure”. But journalists, non-governmental organizations and political organizations are proving the opposite.

“We see a clear pattern of violations of international humanitarian law here, which is actually supposed to protect civilians,” says Wolfgang Benedek, who investigated violations of international law in Ukraine on behalf of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), in a DW interview . According to the head of the expert commission on violations of international humanitarian law and human rights on the territory of Ukraine, Russia does not take international humanitarian law into account, or does not do so sufficiently. The fact that Russia is not attacking any civilian infrastructure is a “blatant lie”.

The United Nations (UN) has documented 4,731 civilian deaths and 5,900 civilian injuries in Ukraine since February 24 (as of June 27) – but expect even higher numbers. The international research collective Bellingcat also documents attacks on civilian infrastructure in detail on a map since the beginning of the war of aggression in Ukraine.

“We saw a large number of destroyed civilian infrastructure and injured, killed civilians,” said Nick Water, head of Justice and Accountability at Bellingcat, in an interview with DW. However, they do not publish on the map which warring party is specifically responsible for the attacks is not to make itself vulnerable, but one of the main reasons Bellingcat is releasing the map is to provide robust information to hold those responsible accountable in the future.

However, there are specific cases where organizations and journalists provide evidence that Russia is responsible for the attacks on civilian infrastructure. DW has selected six examples that have already been well documented and researched.

Russian rockets hit a shopping center with more than 1,000 visitors in the city of Kremenchuk on June 27, according to Ukrainian sources. At least 11 people were killed and more than 50 injured.

The Russian Foreign Ministry confirmed the attack – but stated on its website: Russian soldiers “bombed a hangar with weapons and ammunition that had arrived from the US and Europe”. This ammunition set fire to the shopping center nearby. But Russia provides no evidence for this.

Surveillance video (archived here) released by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky shows the attack. You can see how the rocket hits directly or directly at the shopping center – not, as Russia claims, first hit a factory building and then the shopping center was destroyed by fire jumping over it.

British intelligence wrote on Twitter that there is a possibility that the shopping center was accidentally hit and the airstrike wanted to hit something else nearby. Research by Bellingcat shows that nearby factories were also attacked – but the shopping center was also hit. The German Press Agency (dpa) also published a detailed fact check on this.

On the morning of April 8, there was a rocket attack on the Kramatorsk train station in eastern Ukraine. Around 4,000 people are said to have stayed there at the time, said the city’s mayor, Olexandr Honcharenko.

Reporters from the Washington Post arrived at the station about 15 minutes after the attack. They reported at least 20 dead, including children. According to the region’s governor, Pavlo Kyrylenko, at least 50 people died and around 100 were injured.

A Tochka-U missile was found in front of the station building. Russia denies using missiles of this type. However, research by Bellingcat suggests that the Tochka-U missiles were indeed used by Russian units in Ukraine. Amnesty International also reports that this type of missile was used by Russia in Ukraine.

The British Ministry of Defense believes it is possible that the attack missed a military target due to the imprecise control of the weapons.

The pictures of Bucha, a town near Kyiv, went around the world in early April. Hundreds of bodies littered the streets after Russian soldiers left the city in late March. The residents were killed by Russian soldiers and in some cases mistreated, according to the Ukrainian side.

And Russia countered again directly: The Foreign Ministry wrote on Twitter: It’s all a lie. “All the photos and videos that the Kiev regime publishes in Bucha are just another provocation.” But that’s not true, as the DW fact-check team researched back in March.

Research by the New York Times shows that satellite images from the US company Maxar show that the bodies have been lying on Yablunska Street in Butcha since March 19, and in some cases even since March 11. These recordings clearly contradict the Russian account, according to which the bodies only appeared after the Russian troops had withdrawn on March 30.

Research by Spiegel provides further evidence that it was Russian soldiers who murdered the civilians in Bucha. As the news magazine reported, the German secret service BND intercepted and recorded the radio traffic of the alleged perpetrators of Butscha. Accordingly, Russian soldiers exchanged information via radio about the murder of civilians. According to the analysis of the BND, the brutal action is not an isolated case, but part of the strategy of Putin’s army.

In an interview with DW, the mayor of Butscha also describes the relentless Russian crackdown on the civilian population. According to Anatoliy Fedoruk, around 90 percent of the civilians killed had gunshot wounds. Russia continues to deny any responsibility for the Bucha atrocities.

The theater of the city of Mariupol was hit and destroyed by at least one bomb on the morning of March 16. An investigation by the AP news agency assumes that at least 600 people were killed in the attack. In its report, Amnesty International cites a smaller number of fatalities, but identifies the bomb attack as a “Russian war crime”.

Numerous civilians had sought refuge in the theater of the then embattled city.

The OSCE Commission of Experts came to the conclusion that “the extensive destruction (…) of the theater in Mariupol, marked on both sides with the inscription ‘Children’, in which hundreds of people seeking protection died, was very probably due to Russian bombing. However, after evaluating the available sources, there are no indications of a destruction by the Ukrainian Azov regiment, as claimed by the Russian side.

In early March, several media outlets reported that Russia had shelled a maternity hospital in Mariupol. In an interview with the BBC the day after the attack, Mayor Sergei Orlov reported at least three dead, including one child, and at least 17 injured, mostly pregnant women and doctors.

Russia denied the attack, among other things, the Russian Embassy in the United Kingdom wrote on Twitter that the hospital was no longer in operation and was instead being used for military purposes. That’s wrong. The tweet has since been deleted, but can still be viewed after archiving.

There is evidence of the attack on the maternity hospital. The United Nations (UN) said it verified and documented the attack on the hospital and confirmed that it was operational during the airstrike.

Journalists from the Associated Press (AP) news agency also documented the aftermath of the attack on film immediately afterwards. Among other things, you can see injured pregnant women being carried out of the destroyed hospital on couches. Photos of the consequences of the shelling were also published by AP and dpa, for example.

Just a day after the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, a kindergarten in the town of Okhtyrka was hit by cluster bombs. Three people, including a child, are said to have been killed in the attack. An investigation by the human rights organization Amnesty International reports the impact of a 220mm Uragan rocket near the kindergarten. A drone shot shows the building after the attack.

An analysis of public sources by Bellingcat on the attack concludes that Russian troops were in and around Okhtyrka at the time of the attack and it is highly likely that these troops were the initiators of the attack.

Author: Kathrin Wesolowski, Marcus Lütticke

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The original for this article “Fact check: Putin’s lie about Russian attacks in Ukraine” comes from Deutsche Welle.