Ukraine – a catalogue of explosive weapon harm to civilians since 2014

Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine began this morning, February 24th 2022, more than 40 are reported to have been killed in shelling and airstrikes across Ukraine, including 10 civilians, with dozens also said to be injured.

While there is so far no breakdown of where all these casualties have occurred, explosions have been recorded in many key cities and towns across Ukraine, including the capital, Kyiv, and with casualties confirmed in Kharkiv, Mariupol and Donetsk.

Airstrikes and shelling have hit apartment blocks in Kharkiv, resulting in one of the first confirmed casualties, a boy killed in the shelling, while at least one woman and man were injured in the airstrikes.

Three people have also been killed in shelling on the city of Mariupol, while six others were injured.

A further four people were killed and 10 injured when a Russian shell fell on a hospital in Vuhledar in Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine. The injured are said to include six doctors.

Many civilians are now struck in traffic jams as they rush to flee the areas impacted in the violence this morning, including Kharkiv and Kyiv. There are also queues at the border to Poland, while nearby countries prepare to accept refugees.

In recent weeks, Action on Armed Violence (AOAV) has monitored an escalation in violence in the Donbas region, which borders Russia, and where violence between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian separatists has occurred since 2014.

Between 2014 and 2021, AOAV recorded 5,242 deaths and injuries in Ukraine, including 2,704 civilians and 2,538 armed actors and security personnel. Of the civilian casualties recorded, 2,381 (88%) were caused by explosive weapon use in populated areas.

Ground-launched weapons, such as shelling, mortars, rockets, or grenades, for example, have accounted for 2,459 civilian casualties since 2014 – 91% of total civilian casualties.

Of the civilian casualties, the vast majority occurred in 2014 and 2015, with 1,428 and 862 civilian deaths and injuries in these years respectively. Despite continued sporadic shelling across the line of control, which divides the region of Donbas, civilian casualties have fallen quite consistently since 2014, with 28 recorded last year. Fewer civilian casualties are also likely to have occurred as numerous civilians have fled the worst impacted areas in Donbas since 2014, leaving an aging population, many of whom cannot leave.

In many instances of shelling since 2014, the perpetrator has not been identified, but where they have, Ukrainian separatist forces have been responsible for at least 667 civilian casualties and Ukraine for 783.

In the last few days, there has been an increase in shelling across the line of control, which has resulted in seven civilian casualties. At least three civilians were injured on February 17th when separatist shelling hit a school in Luhansk. On the same day, separatist shelling left another woman injured in Marinka as she waited for a bus. Shelling by Ukrainian forces was also reported to have left one woman injured on February 17th. On February 20th, 2 civilian deaths were reported due to Ukrainian shelling in occupied areas of Luhansk. And, on February 21st, a civilian was killed and homes damaged by separatist shelling on Donetsk.

This escalation in violence and the Russian invasion today is likely to be disastrous for civilians, as highlighted by the statement released today by the International Network on Explosive Weapons (INEW), of which AOAV is a founding member.

AOAV condemns the use of violence against civilians and the use of explosive weapons in populated areas. AOAV encourages all armed actors to stop using explosive weapons with wide-area affects where there is likely to be a high concentration of civilians.