War crime: How Russian-backed militants’ Grad rockets killed people in Volnovakha

On January, 13 a tragedy happened at a checkpoint near Volnovakha, Donetsk region. A Grad BM-21 salvo came close to a passenger bus and killed a lot of civilians. Russian militants reported successful elimination of Ukraine’s checkpoint but later reneged on their words. Observers from international missions fixed the consequences of the crime as well as those of the shelling of Mariupol. Belsat TV journalist Alena Litvinava interviewed one of them (English subs):

Ukraine’s authorities are investigating the terrorist attack that took place near Volnovakha (Donetsk region) on January, 13, with 12 persons killed and 20 injured. Ukrainian law enforcement agencies blame the leaders of the so called Donetsk people’s republic for organising and committing the terrorist attack. In a try to understand what really happened near Volnovakha we will talk to Roman Avramenko, a representative of organisation ‘International Partnership for Human Rights’ that conducted an independent enquiry into the incident.

Roman, I’m happy to welcome you. There are several versions of what happened near Volnovakha. One side states that Russian-backed militants opened fire on the bus; the other, including Russia, says it tripped a mine. What did your investigation result in?

Our organisation decided to send a special mission to the scene so that it could make an attempt to record all facts and material evidence, talk with eyewitnesses, with casualties who were close to the checkpoint when shelling started. After studying all the evidentiary items collected one can say with a strong indication that people were dead and injured due to a burst of a Grad rocket that had been fired from the territory of the town of Dokuchayevsk controlled by DPR separatists.

Why did the version of mine planted by Ukrainian soldiers arise?

This version was definitely authored by those who had never been on the scene. One should examine a shell crater, it had a specific angle slope on the one side – from the north-east, in the direction of Dokuchayevsk, and it is steep on the other side. Other shell craters on the scene were of the same type.

The angle of the shell’s entry may appear as another proof; a tree which is situated close to the scene was damaged with the shell fragments to the height of 4 m. Were it a land mine MON-50 all the fragments would have flown in one direction and the tree would not have been damaged with the shell fragments to the height of 4 m.

This checkpoint had been never shelled before the incident; thus, such damages could not be caused by another shelling. Eyewitnesses say there were several dozens of blasts. They started in the field, within 400  metres of the checkpoint, then came closer, and a rocket  stroke close to a passenger bus. Our mission also found a fragment of what must have been a frame of BM-21 Grad.

Moreover, we pulled fragments of frames and stabilisers that were more than likely parts of  BM-21 Grad from other shell holes. The head of accident and emergency department at Volnovakha Central Hospital showed us shell splinters which he had taken out of the injured people himself. These splinters differ from strike elements of land mines MON-50.

To what body or agency are you going to send these proofs? Are [Ukraine’s] authorities aware of your investigation? What value are the proofs of?

All the proofs are recorded in accordance with a special form which makes possible to consider them as valid in the International Criminal Court in the Hague. Firstly, testimonies were signed by the witnesses, they cannot be changed  in any way. We have them hardcopied; every sheet is signed by an eyewitness. Secondly, the scene and all the material evidence were filmed and photographed. All this is enough for the International Criminal Court to accept evidence.

Against whom?

It is the international investigators who will come after the party responsible; we are just recording the crime and now I am telling you about evident things that are seen when one describes the scene, not about the results of the investigation. All [proofs] taken together indicate that that shelling was the work of representatives of the so called DPR. Bit of cource, there have been no ultimate results yet, they will be long and deliberately investigated by international prosecutors and investigators.

Thank you, Roman. We have talked about the incidents near Volnovakha and mariupol with Roman Avramenko, a representative of International Partnership for Human Rights.

Alena Litvinava/MS


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