Ukraine: Civilian buildings in Kharkiv in crosshairs of Russian shelling
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On February 26, the Russian ministry of defence said that it wouldn’t target civilian infrastructure in Ukraine. However, in recent days, Russian air strikes have hit many residential buildings in Ukraine’s second-largest city, Kharkiv, and several civilians have been killed.
This video of Kharkiv’s regional administrative building being hit with a projectile was shot on a CCTV camera. It shows the date and time of the shelling: Tuesday, March 1 at 8am (local time), which attests to its authenticity.
Freezing a frame of the video helped us to identify a missile or rocket in front of the building. Although we weren’t able to determine the exact model of the weapon, our team was able to conclude that it was at least six metres in length. It could therefore have been a Russian long-range rocket, or a Kalibr-type cruise missile, both of which are in Russia’s arsenal. The Russian ministry of defence has denied striking the regional administrative building in Kharkiv and claims to have only targeted military infrastructure.
The damage inside the building is significant. This video, released by the Ukrainian armed forces, shows a hole in the ceiling above the person filming.
⚡️⚡️ "Визволителі" Харкова поливають ракетами його центр. Як повідомляють у ДСНС, за попередньої інформацією, є влучання в будівлю Харківської ОДА, оперного театру, філармонії та частину житлового масиву (переважно 4-5 поверхові житлові будинки). pic.twitter.com/4L9xuKW8Cp— ВОЇНИ УКРАЇНИ🇺🇦 (@ArmedForcesUkr) March 1, 2022
Cars were destroyed by the impact and the square was very badly damaged. Our team authenticated a third video, published by the Ukrainian rescue services. It was filmed on Freedom Square, just in front of the administrative building.
⚡️ State Emergency Service: 6 people injured in central Kharkiv rocket strike, including one child.— The Kyiv Independent (@KyivIndependent) March 1, 2022
The missile strike hit Kharkiv’s Freedom Square the morning of March 1, damaging the Kharkiv Oblast administration building.
Video: State Emergency Service pic.twitter.com/r7NePb4h5V
The FRANCE 24 Observers team spoke to Maria, a Kharkiv resident who is currently hiding in a shelter with her family after hearing the explosions on Tuesday morning.
Everyday, we hear the sirens and wait anxiously for the air strikes. We hear the firing of rocket launchers, then the missiles flying overhead. This morning we heard what sounded like an aeroplane, and immediately afterwards, an explosion. Shortly afterwards, we found out that Freedom Square had been hit.
‘The neighborhood where our apartment is located was bombed [...] I never thought that one day something like this would happen in my city’
Maria's neighbourhood in downtown Kharkiv was also hit by shelling. Fortunately, she left her apartment on the first day of the Russian invasion on February 24.
Yesterday, the neighborhood where our apartment is located was bombed. There were casualties. My former classmate had to perform first aid on her neighbour, who was injured by broken glass. Right now I can't go and check [my apartment] because you can hear the sirens every hour and it's too dangerous to walk around. I have two children, and I can't take that risk. I never thought that one day something like this would happen in my city.
Several residential areas in Kharkiv were also affected by fighting. Amateur footage shows a fire and smashed windows in a building in Novo-Bavarsky, a district in eastern Kharkiv, near a transport equipment factory.
Military experts suspect use of cluster bombs
On Monday, February 28, a warehouse in Kharkiv was also targeted by rocket fire in the centre of a residential area, as the following two videos posted on Twitter show.
🇺🇦🇷🇺— Momchil Ilker Ivanov (@momchil_ivanov1) February 28, 2022
Harkiv şehir merkezine Rus bombardımanı devam ediyor. pic.twitter.com/fWziQnxRqn
Possible use of cluster munitions in Kharkiv. There was a video posted earlier that showed a Smerch MLRS rocket booster landing in Kharkiv, which can carry cluster munitions. https://t.co/fitcfyuNDr pic.twitter.com/Xd9XubbhuL— Rob Lee (@RALee85) February 28, 2022
We have not been able to confirm whether the two videos were filmed at the same time. However, they were filmed at the same location.
In the area targeted by the shelling, there were multiple explosions that occurred at very short intervals. Some military experts have suggested these are cluster bombs, which generally disperse many submunitions across a wide area. The munitions are prohibited under a 2008 convention, but it hasn't been signed by the United States, Russia or Ukraine.
Both videos were filmed in the northeast of Kharkiv, Ukraine's second-largest city. The attacks took place between a shopping centre and apartment buildings (geolocation: 50.028497, 36.362763).
Rocket debris falling on civilians
These two videos are not the only ones that show bombing in the northeast of the city. We found two other videos that show debris from Russian-made Smerch rockets.
We authenticated one of the videos, filmed 3.5 km south of the bombing. It shows a steaming rocket stuck in the ground in the middle of the road while a car drives by next to it. Stunned passers-by also stop to film.
A second video shows the same rocket model, this time filmed from closer up. The end of the rocket in the footage also resembles the end of a Smerch rocket.
Civilian buildings hit on Sunday, February 27
On the morning of Monday, February 28, a video was shot in the northeast of the city. Our editorial staff was able to geolocate it: it shows a school in ruins, covered in shrapnel. Farther on, the remains of armoured military vehicles testify to violent clashes between the Russian and Ukrainian armies.
In a video posted on Telegram the following day, a woman tearfully describes what remains of her school: "This used to be the physics classroom, on the third floor... Opposite, the biology classroom... And here, there used to be a canteen...".
Footage of the same school in flames was filmed on Sunday night, February 27. Kharkiv has seen its civilian buildings impacted by fighting between the Russian and Ukrainian armies for at least three days in a row.