Almost every school in Mariupol was damaged. A KHPG investigation
Schools and colleges have often been the target of attacks during Russia’s war with Ukraine. They have been shelled or bombed and were directly targeted by cruise and ballistic missiles.
The attack on Mariupol in spring 2022 by Russia’s armed forces led to particularly extensive destruction. Eyewitnesses who talked to KHPG’s investigators said that the Russians advanced systematically, first targeting a district with artillery, tanks and aviation before the infantry moved in.
in 2021 there were 63 schools in the city, said Mariupol city council’s education department. T4P’s database contains 52 recorded incidents involving the destruction of school buildings.
Perhaps the remaining 11 schools were unharmed, but we have no reliable information about most of them. The final total may prove greater.
Below you can see college No 1 in the centre of Mariupol. One of the city’s first educational establishments, it opened in 1876. Today it lacks a roof and part of the walls have collapsed. A building that survived two World Wars will not soon admit more pupils.
Some schools were razed to the ground. This is what remains of the Privilege private school.
The occupation authorities have tried to restore some school buildings. One is School No. 65 on the right bank district of Mariupol. Petro Andryushchenko, aide to the Mayor of Mariupol in exile, says that “nine classes of 35-45 children” have been formed to study there according to the Russian educational programme.
“The school children are not fed. Electricity is supplied by a single generator and so no computers are in use. Those who finish school No. 65 are promised DPR [“Donetsk people’s republic”] diplomas and are invited to apply immediately to various Russian higher education institutes”.
He adds, “The parents were forced to clear away the rubbish, cover the windows with plastic and restore a semblance of good order”.
Two photos show what school No. 65 looked like before restoration work began (a shell hit the second floor) and since
Next to the school the invaders put up a bust to Lenin who, in Putin’s crazed imagination, “created Ukraine”.
The Lenin monument, it would seem, embodies the historical myths with which Mariupol schoolchildren will be acquainted. Handbooks for teachers seen by former parliamentary commissioner for human rights Ludmyla Denisova instruct them how to explain to the children that Crimea is part of Russia and other myths that are constantly being manipulated by Russian propaganda and Putin himself.
Considering the scale of the damage the restoration of a few schools will create useful images for television. It cannot have any substantial influence on education in Mariupol.
You can see the extent of damaged to schools in Mariupol on our map.
Institutes of higher education in Mariupol also suffered substantial damage. The KHPG recorded three examples.
These six photos show what the Priazovsky State Technical university looks like today. Before the war hundreds of specialists graduated each year from the university.
One of the new buildings of Medical faculty No. 3 of the Donetsk National Medical University. The University moved to Mariupol and two other cities in the Donetsk Region in 2017.
Mariupol State University was also damaged. Recently it became known that the occupation authorities intend to renew teaching at the university and have begun admitting students.
We have recorded seven incidents in our database where pre-school buildings were damaged.
We heard many stories about the destruction of schools and kindergartens from those who managed to escape from Mariupol.
“The Russians claimed they were shelling the Azov territorial defence base,” says Vitaly Bandrushkiv who lived in Mariupol. “In fact, the first ‘military’ targets they hit were schools and a nine-storey apartment block, next to the territorial defence base.”
Schools were one of the first targets hit by Russia’s armed forces, comments Nicole Derekleyeva, who escaped under fire from the city with her younger brother:
“When the Russian President announced the invasion, I was not sleeping and heard what he said from the news. One moment I saw the sky turn a vivid orange then there was a loud explosion. I learned later that a missile had struck a school not far from our apartment. I took fright, I remember, and tears came to my eyes. Then I realised that something dreadful would happen to us, but I could not have imagined how awful it would be.”
Vira Kamenetskaya, who had to pass through a filtration camp, remembers how a school where children were beforehand was destroyed.
Andriy Potayenko who left Mariupol on 24 March saw how Russian tanks fired on a kindergarten.
“The tank turned round and began to fire behind the building They were shooting at a kindergarten there.
“That tank drove off somewhere else and another tank approached from different direction. It stopped next to our apartment block and began firing at the kindergarten. Some of the menfolk who were then still living in the building asked, ‘What are they firing at? There’s been no one in that kindergarten for days now’.”
During the Russian invasion there were systematic attacks on educational institutions in many parts of Ukraine. We have recorded 252 such assaults in the Kharkiv Region alone. This confirms that the Russian army has deliberately targeted and attacked pre-school institutions, schools and institutes of higher education, sometimes using costly long-range missiles for the purpose.
Russia has tried to justify such attacks by saying that the Ukrainian Army was basing its forces in school buildings. In some cases, Ukrainian forces indeed used such premises for its units or for other purposes. In no way does this justify the selective attacks on all educational institutions by Russia’s armed forces.
Such attacks cannot be explained by legitimate military necessity. The Ukrainian Army is aware of the Russian tactic of destroying the buildings of educational institutions. It is very unlikely, therefore, that Ukraine’s soldiers would make extensive use of schools, knowing that the enemy would attack them first.
Furthermore, representatives of Russian armed units themselves billeted their troops in used civilian buildings. As Olena Yakhontova recalled, in March 2022 Kadyrov’s Chechen fighters installed themselves in the kindergarten where she used to work.
Targeted or indiscriminate attacks on civilian buildings, in particular on educational institutions, are a war crime under international law. Since Russia’s invasion in February 2022 the T4P Initiative has documented such events, giving them a preliminary classification in accordance with the terms of the Rome Statute.