Ukraine accuses Putin of ‘war crimes’ for ‘barbaric’ blitz on Kharkiv

At least 21 killed while school and aid tent destroyed as Ukraine’s second-largest city bombarded by rocket attacks

Chiara Giordano
Tuesday 01 March 2022 15:37 GMT
Moment Russian missile strikes Kharkiv adminstration building

Vladimir Putin has been accused of war crimes following a “barbaric” attack that killed at least 10 people in Kharkiv.

Video footage emerged of Ukraine’s second-largest city being bombarded by airstrikes, including in residential areas where dozens of civilians have reportedly died.

One recording showed a massive explosion next to the towering Soviet-era administrative building in the city’s central Freedom Square shortly after sunrise on Tuesday, which hit several cars parked in front of it and shattered windows but left the building largely intact.

Several civilian cars were reportedly passing the building at the time.

At least 10 people were killed and 35 wounded in the airstrike, according to Interior Ministry adviser Anton Herashchenko.

Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelensky called the attack on the square “frank, undisguised terror”.

“There was no military target on the square,” he said. “Nobody will forgive. Nobody will forget. This attack on Kharkiv is a war crime.”

It was the first time the Russian military had hit the centre of the city of about 1.5 million people whose residential neighbourhoods have been under fire for days.

The Ukrainian emergency service said it had put out 24 fires in and around Kharkiv caused by shelling, and it had disabled 69 explosive devices.

A projectile hits the regional state administration building in the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv as the Russian invasion continues 1 March 2022

Also struck on Tuesday was a tent site on the central square that had been set up to collect aid for the volunteer Ukrainian fighters who have rushed to Kharkiv’s defence.

In recent days, volunteer guards had occupied the regional administration building as part of those efforts.

It is feared some of the volunteers are now among the dead.

As emergency responders picked through the debris, there was fresh anger.

“This is for those who were waiting for a Russian peace, this is what you wanted, yes? Many injured,” one said.

Blasts can also be heard ringing out in another video captured on Monday as cars were blown up next to what appeared to be a residential building in a broad daylight attack.

Eleven people are thought to have died in that bombardment, which also saw a school in the city destroyed.

Ukraine’s foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba called for more international sanctions against Russia after what he said was a “barbaric” attack on the city.

A monitor displays a projectile striking the regional state administration building, as the Russian invasion continues, in Kharkiv, Ukraine, 1 March 2022

“Barbaric Russian missile strikes on the central Freedom Square and residential districts of Kharkiv,” he wrote on social media.

“(Russian president Vladimir) Putin is unable to break Ukraine down. He commits more war crimes out of fury, murders innocent civilians.”

Oleh Sinehubov, the head of the Kharkiv regional administration, confirmed residential buildings had come under Russian shelling during the attacks.

He did not give any specific numbers of casualties from the latest shelling, but previously said at least 11 people were killed and scores of others were wounded in airstrikes on Monday.

Mr Sinehubov said Russia launched Grad and cruise missiles on the city, but that Ukraine’s defences were holding.

Russia is advancing on Kyiv with a huge convoy of armoured vehicles, tanks and other military equipment spanning more than 40 miles, according to new satellite images.

The Russian military has denied targeting civilians during its invasion, despite abundant evidence of shelling of residential buildings, schools and hospitals.

Emergencies personnel carry a body out of the damaged local city hall of Kharkiv on 1 March 2022

The military “takes all measures to preserve the lives and safety of civilians,” defence minister Sergei Shoigu insisted on Tuesday.

“I would like to stress that strikes are carried out only on military targets and uses exclusively precision weapons,” he added.

Deputy prime minister Dominic Raab, a former Foreign Office lawyer, said it must be clear “both to Putin but also to commanders in Moscow and on the ground in Ukraine that they will be held accountable for any violations of the laws of war”.

“Those that engage in war crimes will be held to account,” he told Sky News.

Foreign secretary Liz Truss, meanwhile, accused Putin of “industrial scale” rights violations and said he had “blood on his hands” as she urged countries to isolate Russia further in response to the invasion of Ukraine.

She told the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council Russia was becoming a “global pariah” and that Britain and its allies were “working to squeeze the Putin regime harder and harder by steadily tightening the vice”.

“I urge nations to condemn Russia's appalling actions, and isolate it on the international stage,” she said.

“Putin is responsible for civilian casualties and over 500,000 people fleeing with the numbers still rising fast. The blood is on Putin's hands, not just of innocent Ukrainians but the men he has sent to die.”

Additional reporting by agencies

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