By George Sargent and Eleanor Whalley
AMSTERDAM/LONDON (Reuters) – Multiple cluster bombs were fired on Ukraine’s second largest city Kharkiv on Monday, two munitions experts said after reviewing footage posted on social media.
Reuters geo-located two separate videos that show thuds and flashes over a wide residential area in the city of 1.4 million in northeast Ukraine. Reuters was unable to obtain the original footage to confirm the time and date of the recordings, which were posted online on Monday.
Kharkiv has been the target of some of the worst aerial attacks since Ukraine was invaded by Russian forces on Feb. 24.
“Kharkiv appears to have been the target of multiple cluster munition attacks yesterday,” said Sam Dubberley, head of the Digital Investigations Lab at New York-based Human Rights Watch. “We have geo-located one showing what appears to be several civilian victims a short way away.”
Hamish de Bretton-Gordon, a former British Army officer and biological and chemical weapons specialist, agreed that cluster munitions were most likely used in Kharkiv.
“This does look very much like cluster bombs, and similar to those I’ve seen going off in Iraq and Syria,” he said in an email to Reuters. “The multiple explosions on impact of each warhead would suggest a cluster munition.”
Ukraine’s ambassador to the United States accused Russia on Monday of attacking Ukrainians with cluster bombs and vacuum bombs, weapons that have been condemned by a variety of international organizations.
When asked about allegations that Russia was using cluster munitions and vacuum bombs, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said: “It’s undoubtedly fake news.” Russian operations are focused on military targets, not civilian ones, he said.
Russia and Ukraine have not joined the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions, which has been signed by 108 states. The treaty prohibits the use and stockpiling of this type of explosive, which scatters submunitions, or “bomblets”.
Kharkiv Mayor Ihor Terekhov and Kharkiv region chief Oleg Synegubov said aerial attacks had killed or wounded dozens of civilians, including three children, in residential districts.
“Four people left a bomb shelter to get water and were killed,” Terekhov said. “A family, two adults and three children, burned alive in a car.”
Reuters could not independently verify the casualty numbers.
(Reporting by George Sargent and Elenor Whalley in London, Alessandra Prentice in Dakar and Natalia Zinets in Lviv; Writing by Anthony Deutsch in Amsterdam; Editing by Mark Heinrich)