“My Father Had Six Large Holes in his Back”: Russian War Crimes in Ukraine

On 24 February 2022, the world stood stunned as President Vladimir Putin ordered a full-scale assault on Ukraine. The assault began with Russian troops entering from the regions of Luhansk, Kharkiv and Chernihiv, in what Putin falsely claimed was a “peacekeeping operation”.

Within 2 weeks, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) had already recorded 1,207 casualties caused by this “peacekeeping operation”, but estimated that the real figures were considerably higher.

We at Cardiff Amnesty condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as an act of aggression and a violation of the United Nations Charter. We stand with Amnesty International in calling for all those involved in this crime to be held accountable.

The Russian occupation has been accompanied by heavy shelling in most Ukrainian cities, with missile strikes and long-range artillery being launched into densely populated areas not yet reached. Amnesty International has gathered evidence of citizens across Ukraine being killed in indiscriminate attacks with reports from Bucha, Ukraine showing a wider pattern of war crimes including execution and torture.

18 year old Kateryna from the village of Vorzel spoke with Amnesty International about the death of her parents when several tanks displaying the letter ‘Z’ were driven down their street. Her parents instructed her to hide in the cellar while they went into the street. Kateryna then heard gunshots.

“Once the tanks had passed by, I jumped over the fence to the neighbour’s house. I wanted to check if they’re alive. I looked over the fence and saw my mother lying on her back on one side of the road, and my father was face down on the other side of the street. I saw large holes in his coat. The next day I went to them. My father had six large holes in his back, my mother had a smaller hole in her chest.”

Nataliya and Valerya Tkachova

On Monday 7th March, Russia offered a ceasefire and access to six humanitarian corridors, four of which led to Russia or pro-Russian Belarus, with the promise of allowing citizens to get out of several Ukrainian cities. However, persistent heavy shelling after the planned start of the ceasefire prevented the evacuation of civilians out of the cities of Kyiv, Kharkiv, Mariupol, Mykolaiv, Sumy and Volnovakha. Other promises of ceasefires from Putin have also failed to materialise. Ukraine’s foreign ministry has stated that the obstruction of the humanitarian corridors not only prevents the safe passage the citizens, but also the delivery of medicine, food and water.

Russian strikes have targeted and caused the destruction of several hospitals, nurseries and schools in Ukraine. The use of “surrender or starve” siege tactics on civilians, particularly in cities such as Izium and Mariupol, has seen many cut off from water, electricity, heating and food.

This is undoubtedly a human rights crisis.

Russian authorities have now forcibly closed the Moscow offices of Amnesty International and other NGOs based in Russia.

Action You Can Take

  • You can act now and join people across the world in signing Amnesty International’s petition to Putin demanding that Russia ends the war on Ukraine immediately, protects civilians and respects international law. The petition can be found HERE.
  • Since the start of the war, 2.8 million people have fled Ukraine. The UN believes the situation is set to become Europe’s largest refugee crisis this century. The UK’s proposed Nationality and Borders Bill will undermine our commitment to help those fleeing war. We urge you to write to Boris Johnson to highlight how this bill would undermine the UK’s asylum system and affect the people of Ukraine and those like them seeking sanctuary. Amnesty International UK have an online action HERE which you can use to email Boris Johnson on this issue.
  • Amnesty International UK have put together 5 ‘golden rules’ countries should follow as they respond to this refugee crisis. You can share the tweet (HERE) and tag your local MP as well as @BorisJohnson . If you’re not sure of your MPs twitter handle you can use tweetyourmp.com to find out.

There are a number of organisations working on the ground in Ukraine, both aiding the people affected and gathering evidence to ensure that those responsible will be held to account for their crimes. Some places you may like to donate to include:

  • Amnesty International, who continue to document the war crimes occurring in Ukraine
  • Unicef, who are reaching vulnerable children and families in Ukraine to provide essential services and working to rebuild schools
  • The Disasters Emergency Committee, who are working with local partners in Ukraine to provide food, water, shelter and medical assistance
  • The Kyiv Independent, who continue to report from Ukraine on developments. You can also follow them on Twitter.
  • The Ukrainian Red Cross, who are working to provide essential aid to people in Ukraine.

Amnesty International will continue to report on the war on Ukraine and you can keep up to date with both their investigation and campaign actions HERE.

If you would like to get involved with the work of Amnesty Internationally locally then you can email amnesty.cardiff@btinternet.com

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