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“Notorious”: Human Rights Watch speaks out against rocket use in Ukraine

Unguided Grad rockets have been used by both forces affiliated with the Ukraine government and those opposed to it, Human Rights Watch say in a new press release launched Friday. At least 16 civilians have been killed in these attacks in the city of Donetsk between 12 and 21 July.

In one attack, six civilians died after multiple Grad rockets struck the village of Maryinka, on the outskirts of Donetsk overnight on 12 July. Investigators at the attack site found evidence of distinctive damage to buildings that strongly suggests that the Ukraine forces fired at a nearby rebel base with these notoriously imprecise weapons.

Grad means ‘Hail’ in Russian, and these weapons are designed to saturate a wide area with explosive force. The fully-loaded system is capable of launching 40 rockets in 20 seconds. Each rocket is 3m long, and completely unguided. As such they are completely inappropriate for use in populated areas, and Human Rights Watch state that the use of these inherently inaccurate weapons in populated areas violates the laws of war.

“Ukrainian authorities should order all their forces, including volunteer forces, to immediately stop using Grads in or near populated areas, and insurgent forces should avoid deploying in densely populated areas,” said Ole Solvang, senior emergencies researcher at Human Rights Watch. “Commanding officers on all sides should recognize that one day they could face legal consequences for their actions.”

AOAV has previously profiled these notorious weapons and their use in Syria.

In the wake of the devastating plane crash last week in eastern Ukraine global attention has been focused on the surface-to-air missile systems that may have been responsible for the disaster. Explosive violence has also been responsible for many civilian casualties on the ground in recent months as clashes have engulfed the eastern provinces that border Russia.

AOAV works to record the casualties of explosive violence worldwide as they are reported in English-language media sources. Between 1 May and 14 July 2014,

  • AOAV recorded 467 deaths and injuries from explosive violence in eastern Ukraine.
  • This includes 80 civilian fatalities and 187 civilian injuries.
  • Ground-launched weapons (rockets, mortars, shells and grenades) have caused 71% of civilian casualties.
  • 88% of casualties in populated areas were civilians (179 of 203). In other areas, only 3% of casualties were civilians (9 out of 264).

Along with AOAV, Human Rights Watch are a founding member of the International Network on Explosive Weapons (INEW), a group of NGOs working to bring an end to civilian suffering from the use of explosive weapons in populated areas. For more information go to

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