The air strike on the regional civil administration building in Lugansk by the armed forces of Kiev on June 2nd is a terrible tragedy for the civilians killed. Whilst the action has been described by the Ukrainian government as part of an “anti-terrorist operation,” it clearly violates the basic principles on the use of force governing law enforcement operations. Given the presence of armed conflict in Eastern Ukraine, the action violates international humanitarian law.
According to the OSCE monitors report:
In Luhansk the situation remained volatile. On 2 June, shortly after 15:00 hrs, rockets hit the occupied regional administration building. Based on the SMM’s limited observation these strikes were the result of non-guided rockets shot from an aircraft. The number of casualties is unknown.
Here is a video of the actual attack from a surveillance camera:
The evidence the fatalities, believed to all be civilians and to number at least 5 women and 3 men, were killed by an attack from a Ukrainian warplane has been reinforced by the following report from CNN:
The pro-Russian leadership in the city immediately accused the Ukrainian air force of carrying out the attack. A fighter jet had been flying overhead at the time, and social media video appeared to show it firing cannon or rockets. The authorities in Kiev denied its planes had been involved. Initially, the anti-terrorist operation said the explosion originated from inside the building, then that an anti-aircraft missile operated by the separatists had misfired, reacting to heat from an air-conditioning system on the outside of the building.
But a CNN investigation in Luhansk has found clear evidence that whatever detonations hit the building and the adjoining park came from the air. The tops of trees were splintered, and a series of small craters — about a dozen — had been blasted in a straight line, starting in the park and reaching the walls of the building, blowing out many of its windows and spraying the area with jagged shrapnel. That’s what appears to have killed most of the victims and injured 20 more.
The pattern of the craters clearly indicated some sort of strafing, according to a munitions expert at the scene with CNN. Their size suggested 30-millimeter ordnance, he said, which is standard equipment on the Su-25, a ground attack fighter, and the Su-27 — both combat aircraft operated by Ukraine.
According to RT, “In Lugansk, Kiev admitted firing “more than 150 missiles” from fighter jets on Monday alone.”
Reports from journalists who have visited the scene, backed up by the video evidence, indicate numerous craters in front of the building and in the park consistent with a strike by an SU-25 warplane firing a 30mm cannon.
The consequences for the civilians concerned are clear from a heart-breaking and YouTube video which shows a number of dead civilians outside the building. One lady, still alive but severely injured, with her legs severed and numerous other injuries, politely asks the cameraman if she can use a phone.
(WARNING VERY GRAPHIC VIDEO):
The lady has been named as Inna Kukuruza (born Jul 18 1966), an administrative worker and unfortunately she has died of her injuries.
Another fatality has been named as Minister of Health of the self-declared government Natalya Arkhipova.
The attack appears to break a number of the laws of war including the principle of distinction, in that only combatants should be attacked not civilians and the rule against indiscriminate attacks, in that the method used cannot be directed at a specific military objective and as such is “of a nature to strike military objectives and civilians or civilian objects without distinction.”
The attack also seems to break the rules on proportionality of attack in so far as the incidental loss of civilian life and injury to civilians is clearly excessive in relation to any concrete and direct military advantage.
It also appears that no attempt has been made to spare the civilian population, civilians and civilian objects. For instance, it is clear that an attack on a civil administration building in front of a busy road would be expected to cause incidental loss of civilian life, injury to civilians and damage to civilian objects. There is absolutely no evidence of any effective advance warning of the attack, as is required if the attack may affect the civilian population.
There should, of course, be an outcry over this. It should be led by the main human rights organisations (Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International). The media should be up in arms lambasting those responsible. Pressure should be being brought to bear to prevent a similar atrocity from happening again. According to international law, those who carried out this apparent war crime should be held criminally responsible, as should the commanders and their superiors.
But what do we find? Amnesty International (@amnesty) and Ken Roth’s HRW (@hrw) are silent. The Western media is largely silent or (as in the case of the BBC) uncritically parrots the original discredited official Ukrainian line.
European leaders are silent, other than Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt who is positively enthusiastic about Ukraine’s Anti-Terrorist Operation. NATO promises closer ties with Ukraine and the State Department spokesperson “welcome[s] the restraint the Government of Ukraine has shown.” President Obama declares that the USA will “stand solidly behind” Ukrainian President-elect and oligarch Petro Poroshenko, who quite probably had a say in giving the air strike the go-ahead.
The use of violence against the people of Eastern Ukraine is driven by and only exacerbates historical enmities. The massacre in Odessa, killings in Mariupol and now this air-strike will do nothing but strengthen the resolve of many in the East to escape from Kiev’s rule.
The conflict in Ukraine also has a dangerous geopolitical dimension. One hopes that (with Western human rights organisations deeply influenced by the corporate mass-media and US State Department and infiltrated by neo-cons and humanitarian imperialists), ordinary citizens who want peace in Europe will make their voices heard. Maybe that will help give European politicians some backbone in resisting the insane policies of the US administration.
(updated 7 June)