Russia has been striking civilian sites 75 times a day on average: T4P investigation
The universally accepted rules of war, laid down in the Geneva Conventions and other laws ratified by Russia and Ukraine, limit the activities of armies to avoid excessive suffering by the civilian population. Deliberate and indiscriminate attacks on civilian sites are, therefore, regarded as war crimes in accordance with international law.
Ever since 2014, when Russia annexed Crimea and occupied parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk Regions, numerous attacks have been documented on the civilian population by Russia and the fighters it supports. Since the full-scale invasion began late in February 2022 Russian forces have begun the mass deployment of the most varied types of weapon.
In this study, the T4P project presents information about the shelling of civilian sites and the civilian population of Ukraine between 24 February 2022 and 1 May 2023.
Why do Russians attack civilians?
Whatever the purpose of the attack, indiscriminate shelling that leads to suffering among the civilian population is accounted a war crime. The shelling by Russian forces may be divided into two kinds:
1. Shelling as part of an attempt to take control of a particular town or village;
2. Missile attacks on critical infrastructure in towns or villages far from the frontline.
Statistics from the T4P database
Between 24 February 2022 and 1 May 2023, the T4P database recorded 32,451 incidents in which civilian sites and their population were shelled by a variety of Russian weapons. This accounts for 84% of all the war crimes committed by Russian forces in Ukraine.
The majority of such attacks take place in regions of Ukraine where Russia is attempting to advance. Civilian sites in the Kharkiv and Donetsk Regions, areas of the fiercest ongoing battles, have been shelled more than any other part of Ukraine. The Kharkiv Region was almost completely liberated by Ukrainian forces in their autumn 2022 counter-offensive, but Russia continues to bombard and shell the Region at regular intervals. Towns and villages in the Kharkiv Region that border Russia have suffered most, being accessible to the enemy’s mortars and other short-range artillery based on Russian territory.
Population centres in the Kherson and Sumy Regions, and the majority of Ukrainian towns and villages next to the border, are subject to systematic shelling by the Russian army. This frequently makes life unbearable for local residents.
Russian forces regularly use short- and long-range rockets to attack targets in Kyiv, Odesa and other parts of Ukraine that are remote from the frontline. In autumn 2022, Russia started an aggressive campaign, targeting Ukraine’s energy infrastructure: up to one hundred rockets might be fired in a day at electric power stations and other civilian sites across the country. Subsequently, Russia turned to the use of drones made in Iran; this was, seemingly, in response to its considerable use of expensive rockets.
Another indication of such a shortage of land-to-land missiles is that Russia began using C-300 anti-aircraft installations to attack ground-based targets. These missiles were frequently used to shell the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv.
The compilers of the T4P database have recorded 43 case when Russians shelled civilian sites in certain Ukrainian Regions employing the Buratino-1 and Solntsepek-1A heavy mortar systems: the Kharkiv Region (30), the Kyiv Region (5) and the Donetsk Region (4).
As of 1 May 2023, the T4P database had documented the destruction of, or damage to, 57,173 civilian sites by Russian forces: residential buildings, educational and health institutions, cultural sites, and so on.
Approximately 90% of human fatalities and damage to buildings and infrastructure was caused by shelling from a variety of weapons. The greatest number of civilian sites damaged or destroyed by Russian forces, a total of 10,393, were registered in the Zaporizhzhia Region.
The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court endows buildings intended for religious, educational, artistic, research or charitable purposes with a special status; this extends to sites of cultural, natural and historical significance and to hospitals and places where the sick and wounded are being cared for.
The T4P database has recorded 2,711 cases where Russians shelled such sites: in particular, this affected sites in the Kharkiv Region (578), the Donetsk Region (554) and the Zaporizhzhia Region (278).
The Ukrainian Ministry for Infrastructure registered damage to 81,511 sites in the period from 23 February 2022 to 2 May 2023. Among them were:
- 55,343 residential buildings and 20,264 separate residential premises
- 4,735 non-residential buildings and 257 separate non-residential premises, and
- 552 other facilities.
Within the country’s heating supply system 685 sites were hit, while 1,080 kms of the sewage and water supply network were damaged or destroyed. 436,566 households and other organisations were left without water. 151,955 lacked sewage and water disposal facilities.
According to the Second Rapid Assessment of Damage Sustained, made on 24 February 2023 with the participation of the Ukrainian government, with regard to the country’s future restoration, up to 1.4 million apartments in multi-storey apartment buildings were damaged, 135,000 private houses and 39,040 rooms in dormitories.
As of May 2023, the Ukrainian Ministry of Culture possessed details of damage to 1,464 cultural institutions and 623 monuments. Among those damaged were:
- Community centres — 701 (256 destroyed, 445 damaged); Regions most affected Donetsk (23%), Kherson (15%), Kharkiv (14%)
- Libraries — 555 (185 destroyed , 370 damaged); Donetsk (27%), Kyiv (14%), Kharkiv (12%)
- Museums and art galleries* — 77 (27 destroyed, 50 damaged); Donetsk (31%), Kherson (16%), Kharkiv (12%)
- Theatres, cinemas and concert halls — 23 (10 destroyed, 13 damaged); [not specified]
- Art schools and colleges — 108 (45 destroyed, 63 damaged); Donetsk (28%), Kharkiv (16%), Mikolayiv (10%)
* 57 museums are in areas occupied by Russia since 24 February 2022; 27 are in parts of Ukraine that have since been liberated. 38 museums were damaged as a result of military action.
We sent formal requests to the Ukrainian Ministry of Social Policy and the Ministry of Energy Supplies about the losses sustained as a result of Russian aggression. The Ministry of Social Policy replied that it did not have a methodology for assessing losses; the Ministry of Energy Supplies declined to provide us with information about damage to the country’s energy infrastructure because such information is classified.
According to data assembled by the Kyiv School of Economics (as of February 2023): 153,900 residential buildings have been destroyed or damaged throughout Ukraine as a result of the ongoing military action; 3,170 educational institutions have suffered (almost 1,500 secondary schools, 909 kindergartens and 528 higher education institutions); 1,216 healthcare institutions and 1,800 cultural institutions have been destroyed or damaged.
The most up-to-date information about war crimes recorded by the T4P initiative may be found in the Live Statistics section of this website.