Nearly 1,500 residential buildings, 202 schools, and 34 hospitals have been destroyed since the Russia-Ukraine war began
Ukrainian civilians, especially women and children, are bearing the brunt of the Russian invasion. Shelling, air strikes and missiles have not spared homes, schools and hospitals. On March 9, alleged Russian bombing of a maternity and children’s hospital in Mariupol, wounded 17 people and left children and others trapped under the rubble. According to the UN refugee agency (UNHCR), the number of refugees fleeing Ukraine has exceeded 2 million.
Already tens of thousands of Ukrainians have been left without food, water, power or heat in the hard weather conditions in several besieged cities of southern Ukraine. In almost three weeks after Ukraine was invaded, several hundred deaths and injured have been recorded.
Nearly 1,500 residential buildings, 202 schools, and 34 hospitals have been destroyed since the war began. More than 1,000 towns and villages have been completely deprived of electricity, water and heat, Mykhailo Podoliak, advisor to Ukraine president, has said in a statement.
“They were just trying to get out of town. To escape. The whole family. Many such families have died in Ukraine. We will not forgive. We will not forget. We will punish everyone who committed atrocities in this war”, said Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, in a video address referring to a Russian attack on Sunday.
According to Ukraine’s foreign ministry, Russian shelling has been preventing the evacuation of Ukrainian citizens and foreigners from several cities including Sumy, Kyiv, Kharkiv, Mariupol, Mykolayiv and Volnovakha. Even delivery of food and medicines is prevented, it said in a statement. It called on the world leaders to persuade Russia to a ceasefire to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe.
In the Ukrainian city of Mykolaiv, residents fled their beds for safety when Russian forces launched a bombardment of military barracks. “They attacked our city dishonourably, cynically, while people were sleeping,” Vitaliy Kim, the governor of the Mykolaiv region, said in a Facebook posting.
“Vladimir Putin appears to have intention on winding back the clock more than 30 years, establishing a Russian-dominated security zone resembling the power Moscow wielded in Soviet days,” said Grayson Field, a Canadian expert on Kremlin-Ukraine issue. Talking to The News On Sunday, he says: “Now 69 years old and possibly edging toward the twilight of his political career, Putin clearly wants to draw Ukraine, a nation of 44 million people, back into Russia’s influence at the cost of the lives of innocent civilians.”
Grayson says the invasion has triggered a massive humanitarian, displacement and human rights crisis that has the makings of the worst such catastrophe in recent European history. Russia is not only breaching the sovereignty of a neighbour and its people but also committing war crimes. The world will face long-lasting consequences of this invasion. The world leaders must not allow this aggression and violations of international law, Grayson says.
“To embolden nationalism and to find justification for this invasion, Russia has been making use of religion for several years. Russia has rapidly abandoned its secularity, in favour of a new paleo-conservative religious nationalism. As the Russian Federation allies itself ever closer with hardline Orthodox Nationalists, the secular line between church and state continues to disintegrate.” Grayson sees Russia more closely resembling Pakistan than Western Europe in terms of religiosity and having populist leadership.
Russia is not only violating the sovereignty of a neighbour and its people but also committing war crimes. The world will face long-lasting consequences of this invasion. The world leaders must not allow this aggression and violations of international law,” says Grayson Field, a Canadian expert on Russia-Ukraine issue.
“Russian forces are targetting civilians and most of the civilian casualties were caused by the use of heavy artillery, multi-launch rocket systems and airstrikes in populated areas,” says Richard Landau, a Canada-based teacher of journalism. Talking to the TNS, he says there are concerning reports of the use of cluster bombs striking civilian targets. “Massive damage has been inflicted to residential buildings by use of weapons with wide-area effects in populated urban areas,” he adds. He says that there has also been substantial damage to a significant number of civilian objects, including a hospital, schools and kindergartens. “Essential infrastructure has been heavily damaged”, he says, adding that Russian troops reportedly targetted an ambulance that was transporting seriously wounded people; the driver was killed and a paramedic was injured. It is inhumane and barbaric, he says. It should be stopped immediately,” Landau says.
“The invasion has triggered a huge human rights, humanitarian and displacement crisis that has the makings of the worst such catastrophe in recent European history. Russia is violating the sovereignty of Ukraine and challenging the global security architecture”, said Agnes Callamard, secretary general of Amnesty International.
Agnes says, “Russia is invading the heart of Ukraine, seeking to depose its lawfully elected government, with a real and potential massive impact on civilians’ lives, safety and well-being; its acts cannot remotely be justified on any of the grounds that Russia has offered.” Yet all of this is being done by a permanent member of the UN Security Council,” she says.
“Russia is in clear breach of its international obligations. Its actions are blatantly against the rules and principles on which the United Nations was founded. All members of the United Nations should condemn its conduct unequivocally. Russia’s flagrant disregard cannot be allowed to embolden others to follow suit; nor should the UN’s ability to contain such behaviour be undermined”, she says.
She urges UN member states to stand together in condemnation of Russia’s crimes of aggression, in providing relief and assistance to the citizens of Ukraine including those fleeing the conflict, and to ensure that the consequences of Russia’s aggression are not allowed to push the world closer to an abyss of violence, violations and insecurity.
Russia denies targetting civilians and says its aim is to “disarm” Ukraine and arrest leaders it calls neo-Nazis.
The UN Human Rights Council on Friday last condemned “the violation of rights of Ukrainians by Russia” and agreed to set up a commission to investigate them, including possible war crimes. Thirty-two members of the council voted in favour of the resolution brought by Ukraine. Russia and Eritrea voted against it, while 13, including China, abstained.
Earlier, Ukraine’s ambassador to the UN in Geneva, Yevheniia Filipenko, told the council there was “irrefutable evidence of gross and systematic human rights violations as well as war crimes and crimes against humanity by Russia.”
Filipenko said the commission would work alongside the International Criminal Court in the Hague, which has sent a team to the Ukraine region to look into possible war crimes by the parties in the conflict.
The International Criminal Court has announced to open an investigation in Ukraine to put all perpetrators of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Ukraine.
The writer is based in Canada. He has studied religion, culture and global justice. He can be reached @RanaTanver