Russia Claims Ukraine Shelled Its Own Residential Buildings, Denies War Crimes, threatens tactical nuclear weapons use: The true number of civilian deaths in Ukraine is unknown, but the best estimates from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) is that some 977 civilians have been killed in Ukraine so far, and an additional 1,594 injured.
Video footage and photographs from Ukraine’s major cities Kyiv, Kharkiv, Kherson, Chernihiv, and Mariupol show destruction on residential streets, crumbling residential buildings, and hospitals under siege – but one Russian diplomat told British journalists that Russian soldiers are now committing the attacks.
Instead, Russia’s deputy ambassador to the United Nations Dmitry Polyanskiy suggested that Ukrainian troops may be committing the atrocities themselves.
What Polyanskiy Said
“If Russia is provoked by NATO, if Russia is attacked by NATO, why not, we are a nuclear power,” Polanskiy said, adding that nations should not “try to interfere.”
The Russian diplomat also implied that Ukrainian troops may be attacking residential buildings and dismissed accusations from the United States and other NATO countries that Russia is committing war crimes.
“I don’t think we’re committing war crimes in Ukraine,” he said.
“Of course, it’s not up to me to assess. I’m not there. You’re not there. You’re looking at the videos, you’re looking at the many videos which are considered to be fake news. You believe one thing, I believe another thing.”
When showed photographs of images taken by photographers from The Associated Press, which showed large numbers of apartment buildings in Mariupol completely destroyed and the bodies of deceased Ukrainian children being buried in trenches in the street, Polyanskiy doubled down.
“They were not targeted,” he said of the residential buildings. “We said from the very beginning, that our military is not a threat for the civilian population of Ukraine.”
Polyanskiy’s comments, if true, would mean that Ukrainian soldiers caused the damage in Mariupol – as well as in Kyiv, Kharkiv, and beyond.
What We Know About Civilian Deaths
While more than 3.6 million Ukrainians have already fled the country since the Russian invasion began, millions remain across the country and hundreds of thousands are stranded in major population centers. Humanitarian corridors agreed on by Ukraine and Russia have been repeatedly sabotaged by the Russian military, with huge numbers of Ukrainians left with no safe route to leave their cities.
The United Nations OHCHR reports that most civilian casualties in Ukraine have been caused by explosive weapons with a wide impact area. It means that while many are killed in direct blasts, others die as a result of injuries caused by shrapnel.
The UN office also predicts that the true number of civilian casualties in the country is “considerably higher”
“OHCHR believes that the actual figures are considerably higher, as the receipt of information from some locations where intense hostilities have been going on has been delayed and many reports are still pending corroboration,” the OHCHR website reads.
“This concerns, for example, Mariupol and Volnovakha (Donetsk region), Izium (Kharkiv region), Sievierodonetsk and Rubizhne (Luhansk region), and Trostianets (Sumy region), where there are allegations of numerous civilian casualties.”
Jack Buckby is a British author, counter-extremism researcher, and journalist based in New York. Reporting on the U.K., Europe, and the U.S., he works to analyze and understand left-wing and right-wing radicalization, and reports on Western governments’ approaches to the pressing issues of today. His books and research papers explore these themes and propose pragmatic solutions to our increasingly polarized society.