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Open source investigators verify over 2,600 attacks on Ukraine’s hospitals, schools, churches and energy supply since Russian invasion

© European Union, 2023 (Photographer Oleksandr Rakushnyak)

Open source investigators from CIR’s Eyes on Russia project have recorded and verified 2,642 incidents involving civilian casualties and infrastructure damage since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine on 24 February 2022.

The data lays bare the scale of devastation and destruction to schools, hospitals, religious and cultural buildings and energy facilities over the past two years. 

To carry out the analysis, Eyes on Russia investigators used open source techniques such as geolocation and chronolocation to verify photos and videos shared on social media. Images and videos were also cross-checked and corroborated with reports from journalists and media outlets.   

Donetsk, Kherson and Kharkiv are among the worst-hit regions, with Donetsk oblast alone accounting for over a third of incidents.  

Number of damage incidents per oblast:

over a third of incidents recorded by CIR were geolocated to Donetsk oblast 

Ukraine’s education sector has faced the greatest number of attacks. Investigators verified 775 incidents involving damage or destruction to schools, kindergartens, university buildings and other education facilities such as sports centres (326 in 2022; 406 in 2023; and 43 in 2024).  

In Kharkiv, a boarding school for visually impaired students and a 218-year-old university library were among the educational facilities targeted and shelled by the Russian military in 2022.

Critical civilian infrastructure such as energy facilities or telecommunications networks was the second most affected, suffering damage in 546 incidents (267 in 2022; 265 in 2023; and 15 in 2024).

Damage incidents per category:

education was the worst-hit sector according to CIR open source analysis 

Healthcare facilities have also been regularly damaged. CIR investigators were able to verify nearly 300 incidents in which hospitals, clinics or medical facilities were damaged or destroyed (91 in 2022; 183 in 2023; and 19 in 2024).

Kherson, the first major Ukrainian city to be seized by Russian occupying forces, has seen frequent artillery bombardment since Ukraine liberated the city in November 2022. Since then, medical facilities including hospitals, maternity wards and rehabilitation centres have often come under fire – with CIR verifying 69 incidents involving healthcare facilities in the region in 2023 compared to just four in 2022.  

Cultural or religious buildings were damaged in 374 incidents (136 in 2022; 218 in 2023; and 20 in 2024). 

And 325 incidents involved damage to food production, exports and the environment (78 in 2022; 230 in 2023; and 17 in 2024).

Notably, the number of incidents increased between 2022 and 2023, with 1,014 verified in 2022 and 1,496 verified in 2023. 

Belén Carrasco Rodríguez, Director of CIR’s Eyes on Russia project said: 

“Russia has attacked the Ukrainian way of life since its full-scale invasion in February 2022. We’ve seen a pattern of attacks against sites and institutions that serve no military purpose – from energy facilities to schools, hospitals and churches. 

“We found evidence of deliberate targeting of hospitals and schools over the past two years. We saw the repeated bombardment of hospitals in Kherson and the concentration of damage to buildings nearby. Our analysis found that almost no building has been left unscathed from Russia’s assault on Avdiivka.

“That same strategy of devastation is still being played out in towns and villages elsewhere near the frontline. Last month, we found a spree of intense and deliberate attacks against schools in the city of Myrnohrad, 40 km from Avdiivka.

“Attacks on health, energy and education facilities – sites protected under international law – as well as other critical infrastructure, are a clear attempt to make life unsustainable for remaining civilians.” 

CIR’s recent analysis covered a wave of attacks on the morning of 29 December 2023, when several salvos of missiles and drones were launched at Ukraine’s major cities, including the capital Kyiv. Investigators identified 40 separate attacks on civilian infrastructure across six cities, including damage to residential buildings and healthcare and education facilities.

Damage to civilian infrastructure has continued into 2024, with 132 incidents verified by CIR in January. This includes 56 civilian casualties, 23 of which can be attributed to a single strike on a Donetsk market on 21 January.

Recent Russian military gains in Avdiivka draw to light CIR analysis published in December 2023 revealing the scale of destruction to the frontline town’s civilian infrastructure. The report provides a detailed breakdown of the number of schools, high-rise apartment blocks, and other civilian infrastructure damaged or destroyed following a renewed Russian offensive in October.

CIR’s Eyes on Russia map was launched in January 2022 and contains over 18,000 entries – each one a verified photo or video – relating to the war in Ukraine. It documents Russian military movements, attacks and casualties, damage to infrastructure, and human rights abuses. 

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