An analysis of satellite images, conducted by CNN in collaboration with the Center for Information Resilience (CIR), revealed that Russian Colonel Alexander Zuravliov, who is accused of committing crimes in Syria, launched a cluster bomb attack on Ukrainian civilians launched in the city of Kharkiv. .
The US channel tracked down details of 11 “Smerch” missiles that fell on February 27 and February 28 in Kharkiv and found that they had been launched from the 79th Missile Artillery Brigade stationed in the Russian Belgorod region, led by Zhuravliov.
To survivors of the years-long Syrian civil war, the scenes in Kharkiv look like the crimes that Moscow committed in their country after intervening to help President Bashar al-Assad’s regime in 2015.
The channel indicated that Zhuravlev, 57, had been sent to Syria three times and in July 2016 became commander of the Russian forces there.
After taking over, the Russian army rapidly escalated its attacks on opposition-controlled territory, besieging the city of Aleppo, killing a large number of civilians and starving them.
His leadership has also seen a significant increase in documented cluster munitions attacks in Aleppo. According to the Violations Documentation Center, which documents human rights violations in Syria, cluster munitions were used 137 times in Aleppo between September 10 and October 10, 2016, an increase of 791 percent above the average number of cluster munitions attacks during the previous eight months.
In 2015, the Russian Ministry of Defense denied using cluster munitions in Syria. But the then director of Save the Children’s Syria, Sonia Koch, said in a statement: “There are young children who have recently had their limbs amputated, or who have balls to their muscle tissue due to the use of these horrific and indiscriminate weapons. . “
In Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second largest city, CNN spoke to dozens of eyewitnesses on February 27 and 28 in several neighborhoods targeted by Russian Smerch missiles. They pointed to the death and destruction that this cluster of ammunition had caused in their city.
According to the Ukrainians, the streets of the city were filled with wounded, burned cars and broken glass. One eyewitness said up to ten people in his apartment building were wounded in a single missile attack by Smerch alone.
“I do not know exactly what it was, but it was spread all over the area,” added Yuri Priko, an IT software analyst living in Kharkiv. “These little pieces that explode and send dangerous scrap metal everywhere. They reach different places., Windows and people.”
The remains of the missiles, which were spotted in Kharkiv, and the brand marks left by the projectiles, revealed the direction of the attack, which is returning to the Russian Belgorod region, near the border with Ukraine.
Mark Hiznay, a weapons expert and co-weapons director for Human Rights Watch, said the images indicated cluster munitions attacks on a scale not seen in years.
“It’s not like the movies where you watch the rocket before the bomb falls. The rockets suddenly explode into 72 small parts. That’s why people are literally cut in the roads with this stuff. You do not have many burns. You do not have no explosive injuries. It’s just Bloody Fragments (..) “.
Cluster munitions are banned under a 2010 international treaty banning the use, transfer, manufacture and storage of weapons.
The treaty points out that many submunitions do not explode on impact, but they do allow dangerous ammunition in fields and urban areas, which can kill or maim people.
Experts have confirmed that the attacks in Kharkiv on February 27 and 28 amounted to war crimes.
“Extrajudicial killings and the bombing of civilians, not a military necessity and disproportionate to the threat they face, are contrary to the Geneva Conventions,” said Philip Wasilevsky, Fellow of the Research Institute for Foreign Policy. , said.
CNN contacted the Kremlin for comment, but there was no response.
After the outbreak of war in Ukraine, the Syrian-American orthopedic surgeon, dr. Samer Attar, who was working in Aleppo during the siege of the city by General Zhuravlev’s forces, traveled to Ukraine to help doctors treat the wounded.
Al-Attar described the injuries he treated in Kharkiv and those he saw in Aleppo in 2016 as “the same”.
With the end of the Battle of Aleppo, Zhuravliov left command of the Russian army in Syria and returned to Moscow. He received the highest honors given to a Russian officer, and was twice promoted to commander of the Western Military District the following year, the same division that launched the devastating attacks on Kharkiv and other parts of Ukraine.
“The results that Zuravliov achieved in Syria were exactly what the Russians wanted, hence his reward with the highest medal and the highest positions one can obtain,” said Russian military expert Wasilevsky.
“Colonel Alexander Zuravliov should have been punished for his actions in Syria,” said Matthew Ingham, a prominent human rights lawyer at Payne Hicks Beach’s law firm. “It is unfortunate that there was no stronger response to the alleged war crimes at that point, as it may have influenced Putin’s calculation strategy in Ukraine from the beginning.