The testimonies of recently evacuated civilians from Bakhmut revealed that Ukrainian forces targeted civilians and took children during the ‘Battle for Bakhmut’.
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Since Russia began its military campaign in Ukraine in February 2022, Western media and the authorities in Kiev have bombarded the world with accusations of “war crimes,” including kidnapping children and targeting civilians.
But the testimonies of recently evacuated civilians from Artyomovsk (also known as Bakhmut) – like those of civilians in Mariupol and other areas – once again suggest Ukraine is guilty of the very war crimes its officials level at Russia.
In late April, survivors of Ukrainian bombing in Artyomovsk spoke to myself and my colleague Christelle Néant about the horror they had endured on April 11, when Kiev’s forces blew up the ground floor of their apartment building, burying the civilians sheltering in the basement below. Seven of the seventeen civilians in that basement died almost immediately, including a seven-year-old child.
From the hospital where he was being treated for a broken hip, a man named Sergey said Ukrainian forces, “or rather, [World War Two-era Nazi collaborator Stepan] Bandera’s army,” blew up the building deliberately. “On April 10, they started throwing grenades into every room. We could hear the grenades rolling around.”
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He said the soldiers had used a blowtorch to weaken the infrastructural pipes and ensure floor slabs would collapse when the explosions occurred. His wife and his mother were killed. His six year old son, Kolya, just barely survived.
Néant also met and interviewed another of the survivors, Yulia, who just two days prior to the explosion had given birth. By some miracle, her newborn survived. Néant and I later interviewed Vladimir, the father of Sergey’s wife. He described finding his daughter with her skull cracked open. Unable to help her, he dug for his grandson and found him pinned down by debris, wheezing, but alive, and was able to free him.
Horrific as the days leading up to April 11 were, they weren’t the first time Kiev’s troops had subjected the local population to terror. According to all those we spoke with, Ukrainian forces had been shelling their area since February 2022.
“We were shelled every day by the [radical far-right organization] Right Sector and Azov,” Sergey said. Two others in the same basement, Evegny and Lyubov, said Ukrainian forces had for one month routinely fired on the apartments, “to weaken the walls, so that they could be easily destroyed one day.”
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