Indiscriminate Killing

Amnesty International, the international, non-governmental human rights watchdog, has reported that hundreds of citizens are being killed in the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv by the widespread use of cluster munitions and indiscriminate use of rockets. Yesterday, they published a 44-page, in-depth report titled, Ukraine: “Anyone can die at any time”: Indiscriminate attacks by Russian forces in Kharkiv, Ukraine.

The title pretty much says it all. It reminds me of a time when I was a new cadet and witnessed a capabilities exercise, or CAPEX, put on by the 82nd Airborne Division. The exercise was widely referred to as the “million-dollar minute” because of the amount of ordnance expended in a relatively short amount of time. But, despite the catchy title, it lasted a lot longer than a minute. I remembered two things from that day over 30 years ago:

  1. Army SF soldiers flying at a high rate of speed while suspended from a rope hanging from a Black Hawk, “I just HAVE to do that,” I thought.
  2. The use of cluster munitions dropped from aircraft leaving Pope Air Force Base.

I’m pretty sure my jaw literally dropped when I saw the devastation they could do in only a couple of seconds. It was one of those events where you could hear everyone saying “wow” under their breath. “No one could live through that,” I thought as entire football-field-sized pieces of land were ripped apart by high explosives and shrapnel.

Old school footage of cluster munitions supposedly being used in Laos. This will give you a clear idea of how devastating they can be. Video courtesy of YouTube and MAG (Mines Advisory Group)

In their document, Amnesty says they have repeatedly uncovered evidence of Russian forces using 9N210/9N235. They have also documented the widespread use of scatterable munitions. These are types of rockets that release smaller bomblets that explode at specific timed intervals.

BBC reporters recently visited five impact sites in residential neighborhoods in Kharkiv, where they found clear evidence of the use of cluster munitions. They leave a signature impression on the areas they are used on. The reporters showed images of markings they found to multiple weapons experts, all of whom agreed they appeared to have been made by that particular type of munition.

An example of the distinctive spalling pattern created by cluster bombs. This photo was taken in a Kharkiv residential neighborhood. Image Credit: Joel Gunter/BBC

Mark Hiznay is one of the experts who examined the photos. He said,