A Russian airstrike that reportedly killed 47 civilians in the northern Ukrainian city of Chernihiv may constitute a war crime, human rights group Amnesty International said today following an investigation into the attack.
At approximately 12.15pm on Thursday 3 March, a small public square formed by Chernihiv’s Viacheslava Chornovola and Kruhova streets was hit by multiple bombs, killing civilians and severely damaging nearby buildings.
Based on new interviews and verification and analysis of video evidence, Amnesty’s Crisis Response team in London has concluded the attack was likely to have been a Russian airstrike in which at least eight unguided aerial bombs – so-called “dumb bombs” – were used.
The Chernihiv Regional Administration reported that 47 people – 38 men and nine women – were killed in the strike. Footage shows eight munitions being dropped in close succession and falling in a line, typical of such a bombing run.
Amnesty shared in an email to City A.M. today that it was not able to identify a legitimate military target at, or close to, the scene of the strike.
Satellite imagery from 28 February shows a queue of people outside the building impacted by the strike. Based on this imagery and testimony gathered from witnesses, “the majority of victims were queuing for food when the missiles struck,” the group said.
In dashcam footage of the attack, falling munitions are visible and the sound of what is likely to have been a low quick-passing aircraft can be heard, consistent with the tactics of conducting a strike of this type.
“Dropping unguided bombs in populated areas violates the prohibition on carrying out indiscriminate attacks. Such bombs have wide-area effects and are far less accurate than precision-guided munitions,” Amnesty said.
Verified content from another airstrike location in Ukraine shows an unguided dud FAB-500 M62 bomb being removed by civil defence forces.
In addition, an official video released by the Russian military on 6 March shows the sortie launch of Su-34 Fullback aircraft loaded with eight FAB-500 bombs, an indicator of the typical combat load in current Russian operations.