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3 Feb, 2017 11:18

Russian investigators launch probe into civilian deaths from fresh Ukrainian shelling

Russian investigators launch probe into civilian deaths from fresh Ukrainian shelling

Russia’s top federal investigative agency has begun a criminal case into the deaths of civilians in Donetsk that were reportedly the result of shelling by Ukrainian government forces on February 1-3.

According to Investigative Committee acting chief spokesman Svetlana Petrenko, a criminal case has been launched into the use of illegal methods of warfare.

Petrenko specified that Russian investigators possessed information that on February 1, 2 and 3 this year, Ukrainian military servicemen used heavy weapons on several residential areas of the city of Donetsk and the suburban towns of Yasinovataya and Makeyevka.

As a result of the shelling, which was reportedly carried out on the orders of senior commanders and officials from the Ukrainian Defense Ministry, three local people were killed and 15 more were hospitalized with injuries. The attacks also damaged at least 60 residential buildings and civilian infrastructure facilities.

Petrenko said that both the Ukrainian military and the people who issued the instructions violated the Minsk protocol – which orders a ceasefire in the southeast of Ukraine – as well as the memorandum attached with this protocol, the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War.

We think that these persons are very well aware of all existing legal norms and that they are deliberately violating them again,” she said.

The evidence collected by us can be used in any court process concerning these events. It’s unlikely the people of Donbass will ever forget the current unjustified aggression on the part of the Ukrainian military. Those who are now killing civilians and destroying the country will also remember their mistakes.”

The Russian official told reporters that the Investigative Committee would continue to register all crimes against humanity committed in Ukraine and said these crimes have no statute of limitation.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova said on Friday that the recent “barbaric raid” on Donetsk cannot be justified, also stating that pro-Kiev forces had violated the Geneva Convention covering the protection of civilians, as well as basic human morals.

In 2016, the Russian Investigative Committee launched criminal cases against officials at the Ukrainian Defense Ministry and General Staff over claims of genocide against Russian-speakers in the self-proclaimed Donetsk republic. The chief suspects in the probe are Ukrainian Defense Minister Stepan Poltorak, Chief of General Staff Viktor Muzhenko, current and former commanders of the Ukrainian ground forces Anatoly Pushnyakov and Sergey Popko, and the head of the Ukrainian National Guard, Yury Allerov.

The investigators reported that they had evidence showing that, between January and August of 2016, the Ukrainian officials issued orders to their subordinates in the military and national guard directing them to use heavy weapons to destroy civilian infrastructure in the Donetsk republic and “completely or partially eliminate the ethnic group of Russian-speaking people, including minors.” At least nine people were killed and 110 more were wounded as a result, including nine children. The Ukrainian military also destroyed civilian infrastructure and at least 279 residential buildings.

The Investigative Committee has opened a separate criminal case to investigate banned means and methods of warfare allegedly used by the Ukrainian military that are believed to have resulted in 53 separate instances of crimes against humanity.