Ukraine Used Cluster Bombs, Evidence Indicates – The Times

A casing carrying cluster munitions that landed in a shed. Press officers for the Ukrainian military denied that their troops had used cluster weapons in the conflict.Credit Sergey Ponomarev for The New York Times

A casing carrying cluster munitions that landed in a shed. Press officers for the Ukrainian military denied that their troops had used cluster weapons in the conflict.Credit Sergey Ponomarev for The New York Times

The Times finally admits that “The [Ukrainian] army’s use of cluster munitions, which shower small bomblets around a large area, could also add credibility to Moscow’s version of the conflict, which is that the Ukrainian national government is engaged in a punitive war against its own citizens.”

DONETSK, Ukraine — The Ukrainian Army appears to have fired cluster munitions on several occasions into the heart of Donetsk, unleashing a weapon banned in much of the world into a rebel-held city with a peacetime population of more than one million, according to physical evidence and interviews with witnesses and victims.

Sites where rockets fell in the city on Oct. 2 and Oct. 5 showed clear signs that cluster munitions had been fired from the direction of army-held territory, where misfired artillery rockets still containing cluster bomblets were found by villagers in farm fields.

The two attacks wounded at least six people and killed a Swiss employee of the International Red Cross based in Donetsk.

If confirmed, the use of cluster bombs by the pro-Western government could complicate efforts to reunite the country, as residents of the east have grown increasingly bitter over the Ukrainian Army’s tactics to oust pro-Russian rebels.

Further, in a report released late Monday, Human Rights Watch says the rebels have most likely used cluster weapons in the conflict as well, a detail that The New York Times could not independently verify.

 Rebels extracting a casing that was carrying cluster munitions in Ilovaysk, Ukraine, on Monday. Credit Sergey Ponomarev for The New York Times

Rebels extracting a casing that was carrying cluster munitions in Ilovaysk, Ukraine, on Monday. Credit Sergey Ponomarev for The New York Times

The army’s use of cluster munitions, which shower small bomblets around a large area, could also add credibility to Moscow’s version of the conflict, which is that the Ukrainian national government is engaged in a punitive war against its own citizens. The two October strikes occurred nearly a month after President Petro O. Poroshenko of Ukraine signed a cease-fire agreement with rebel representatives.

“It’s pretty clear that cluster munitions are being used indiscriminately in populated areas, particularly in attacks in early October in Donetsk city,” said Mark Hiznay, senior arms researcher at Human Rights Watch, in emailed comments after the report was completed. “The military logic behind these attacks is not apparent, and these attacks should stop, because they put too many civilians at risk.”

Press officers for the Ukrainian military denied that their troops had used cluster weapons during the conflict and said that the rocket strikes against Donetsk in early October should be investigated once it was safe to do so. They also said that rebels in the area had access to powerful rocket systems from Russia that could fire cluster munitions.

However, munition fragments found in and around Donetsk and interviews with witnesses indicate that the cluster munitions that struck Oct. 2 and Oct. 5 were most likely fired by Ukrainian troops stationed southwest of the city, according to Human Rights Watch and a review by The Times. Witnesses there reported seeing rocket launches from those troops’ positions toward the city at times that coincide with the strikes.

Human Rights Watch says in its report that cluster weapons have been used against population centers in eastern Ukraine at least 12 times, including the strikes on Donetsk, during the conflict, and possibly many more. The report said that both sides were probably culpable, in attacks that “may amount to war crimes” in a grinding conflict that has claimed at least 3,700 lives, including those of many civilians.

The report, which included incidents uncovered by The Times, says there is “particularly strong evidence” that Ukrainian government troops carried out the two October attacks against Donetsk.

An August cluster-munitions attack on the village of Starobesheve, which was in Ukrainian Army hands, was probably carried out either by pro-Russian rebels or by Russian troops, the report says.

Beginning in October, a series of strikes against Donetsk using certain cluster weapons fired from Uragan rockets came from the southwest of the city. The timing of at least two rocket launches from the same location corresponded to cluster munition strikes that hit Donetsk from a southwesterly trajectory, according to Human Rights Watch and The Times.

Shelling of cities has been common in the conflict, and the cease-fire agreement has not ended the violence. A chemical plant on the outskirts of Donetsk was struck Monday, and the resulting shock wave shattered windows for miles around.

A rocket with an intact payload of cluster munitions lies in a field in Novomikhailova, Ukraine.Credit Andrew Roth/The New York Times

A rocket with an intact payload of cluster munitions lies in a field in Novomikhailova, Ukraine.Credit Andrew Roth/The New York Times

On the morning of Oct. 5, Boris V. Melikhov, 37, was chopping wood outside his house in the Gladkovka neighborhood of Donetsk when he heard the loud clap of an explosion from the street.

His first sensation was “a strong push in the back,” and he sprawled onto the grass. More explosions followed, showering Mr. Melikhov with dust and dirt. Unable to stand, he crawled toward a spigot in the garden, bleeding profusely and desperate for water.

“I felt the blood running down my back, down my leg,” he recalled in an interview last week from his bed in a hospital, where his uncle took him after the attack. Doctors there found several identical metal fragments in his leg, chest, shoulder and hand.

Hundreds of such fragments, each about the size of a thumbtack, were sprayed out by at least 11 cluster bomblets that exploded on Mr. Melikhov’s street that morning. The 9N210 bomblets are carried in surface-to-surface Uragan (Hurricane) rockets that are fired from the backs of trucks and have a range of roughly 22 miles.

Part of one of the rockets smashed into a street a few blocks away, and the impact crater indicated it had come from the southwest.

The same morning, sunflower farmers near Novomikhailovka, a small village about 20 miles southwest of Mr. Melikhov’s house, saw rockets sailing almost directly overhead toward Donetsk. Local people said in interviews that the army had been launching Uragan rockets from there for more than a week.

“Trust me, when it is day after day after day, you get to know your Grad launches from your Uragan launches,” said one farmer, who asked not to be named for fear of retribution for discussing Ukrainian military positions. Grads are another kind of rocket used by both sides.

Villagers said they had also seen rockets with cluster bomblets up close. They said several of the rockets misfired on Oct. 3 and landed in the sunflower fields south of the village with their payloads intact.

A reporter photographed three malfunctioned rockets there, and two of them contained submunitions like those that injured Mr. Melikhov. The same type of weapon struck the Donetsk headquarters of the Red Cross on Oct. 2 in an attack that killed an administrator, Laurent DuPasquier, 38.

 

Igor Strelkov’s First Interview After the Breakout from Slavyansk, July 5, 2014

Watch the interview with English subtitles HERE

 

Igor Strelkov: Genuine fascists are advancing against us, fascists in the very same sense that our predecessors understood this word. Monsters. Murderers. Bandits. Marauders. Pure “Polizei”Banderovtsy, just as they once were.

Translated from Russian by Gleb Bazov / edited by @GBabeuf


Q: What happened today? This is the key question that all of us, without exaggeration, want answers to.

Igor Strelkov: Last night, we effected a breakout from within a closing enemy encirclement, which was, in fact, already closed off. We performed a diversion against the positions of the enemy at the “Slavyansk” stele [Note: the Slavyansk city sign]. Our armoured group conducted the assault.

Unfortunately—and I won’t hide it—the larger part of the armoured group was eliminated in the course of the attack. This wasn’t so much connected with—well, regrettably, it was an error on the part of the commander of the armoured group that led to this. He made an incorrect decision while carrying out his assigned task.

Nevertheless, between eighty and ninety percent of the personnel and ninety percent of the armaments were transferred out of the city. The number of dead and wounded isn’t that great, we’ve confirmed it. As well, we were able to evacuate a significant number of the families of our servicemen and other individuals that had helped us, and for whom remaining in the city would have been life threatening.

The breakthrough took the enemy completely by surprise. We adopted the necessary concealment measures. In that regard, we’re awaiting those heroes who are now breaking through on their way to us, who gave us covering fire from the trenches as a diversion and demonstrated our presence on the defence positions.


Q: Igor Ivanovich, that deals with the outcome of what happened, but many are equally concerned about a plan for the future.

Igor Strelkov: We’ll continue our military activities. We’ll try not to make the mistakes we made in the past. These errors, in reality, were not mistakes as much as simply the consequences of a blatant lack of weapons and ammunition.

We hope that we’ll be able to prepare for the next enemy offensive in a more diligent manner and without giving the enemy the opportunity to capture the key strongholds that they were able to take over so easily when we only had a few automatic rifles to our name.


Q: Some have claimed that you’ve apparently abandoned your responsibilities and removed yourself from your role, even that you have fled to Crimea, to Krasniy Perekopsk. Have you resigned or not?

Igor Strelkov: (smiling) Well, if this [around us] were Crimea or Krasniy Perekopsk, then, well… I don’t know… I guess so… But I’m currently in Donetsk.

In addition to my direct duties I plan to create, tomorrow, by my Order as the Minister of Defence, a Central Military Council, which will include all the key field commanders, independent of their direct responsibilities, and where we’ll coordinate all questions relating to the defence of the Donetsk People’s Republic and, possibly, in part, those dealing with the Lugansk People’s Republic—provided they’re within our jurisdiction in the military theatre. And, moreover, until one is appointed, I’ll be performing the functions of Military Commandant of the city, as well as those of Commander of the city garrison.

In other words, we’ll be preparing Donetsk for active defence, to ensure that it isn’t taken over by the enemy. Well, at the very least, as much as we did in Slavyansk, and certainly much more.  In reality, with sufficient troops, Donetsk is much easier and more convenient to defend than the little city of Slavyansk.


Q: A final request. Regardless of how strongly I may sympathize with your circumstances, as a journalist, I have a duty to ask this question: with respect to Slavyansk, what can you say to those people who stayed behind?

Igor Strelkov: (sighing deeply) First of all, I should like to ask them for their forgiveness for failing to retain the city. Our decision to break out of the city, and not to die there, was motivated not only by a desire to save the garrison itself—which is natural for any commander—but also by the fact that we realized that we couldn’t hold it; and that, meanwhile the city would’ve been subjected to ever greater destruction and would’ve suffered even more casualties.

Right now I’m receiving information that, just as was expected, unfortunately, despite the fact that we evacuated the majority of those who helped and volunteered with us, the enemy has engaged in a massacre there. In Slavyansk, in Kramatorsk and in Nikolayevka.

Because today, pursuant to my order, we also withdrew our garrison from Kramatorsk. The battalion that was defending it has been redeployed here, to Donetsk, in order to reinforce our positions. Defending it had become entirely futile after the enemy had taken Artymovsk. It would simply have led to the encirclement of another city.

In any event, of course, the information that they engaged in a massacre there, in the Artyom district to begin with, I am waiting for confirmation of it, but I already have several sources reporting the same information, that the NatsGvardiya [Note: Ukrainian National Guard] exacted revenge for their numerous losses on the people [of Slavyansk]. All the same, our endeavour to avoid victims among the civilian population didn’t save the population from being victimized.

For those who believe that they would be saved from repressions if the Militia left without putting up a fight, this is confirmation that they would not. Genuine fascists are advancing against us, fascists in the very same sense that our predecessors understood this word. Monsters. Murderers. Bandits. Marauders. Pure “Polizei”—Banderovtsy, just as they once were. Despite the fact that eighty years have passed—not eighty, seventy.

They’re genuine Nazis who hide behind the ideas of “United Ukraine” to perpetrate ethnic cleansing. And they’re effecting it. And that’s why we’ll be resisting in Donetsk just as we’ve been resisting them in Slavyansk—only far more successfully.

The Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) defense minister and de facto leader, Igor Strelkov, quit his position Thursday amid rumors that he was severely wounded. Ukrainian officials accuse him of being the direct link between pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine and the Russian government, although Russia denies any direct connection with the separatist movement. Strelkov is also suspected of being a part of the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17.

His resignation comes six days after the resignation of the DPR’s former prime minister and fellow Russian, Alexander Borodai, who has reportedly stayed in the DPR to act as an adviser to the self-declared government.

“You probably already know that [Strelkov], like myself, has left his post,” Borodai told Life News. The [DPR] already has a new defense minister.”

Borodai went on to say that reports Strelkov was injured recently were “total rubbish.” But Andrei Purgin, the deputy prime minister of the DPR, said he didn’t know for sure, but that it’s “likely true” he was hurt in intense fighting around Luhansk.

Strelkov, who’s real name is Girkin, is Russian-born and takes his nickname from the Russian word for “shooter.” He’s known as a Russian nationalist and fan of Russian military history. He became infamous abroad and well-liked in the DPR for his straight-laced demeanor and pro-Russian enthusiasm. He ran the DPR’s military with a strong hand, reportedly ordering a handful of military-style executions of soldiers who stole from the population or otherwise disregarded orders. His likeness often made it on to recruitment posters and rallying signs in the DPR: