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An Anatomy of a Grad Attack: Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions

SDG 16 – Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions

16.1.1 – Number of direct civilian deaths and injuries from explosive weapons, disaggregated by gender and age

Case Study

30 civilians and one on-duty soldier were killed as a result of that January attack. Among the dead were two children – a boy of 5 and a girl, aged 15, who died in the days following. When sex was accounted for, 66% of those killed were women, 34% were men.

Average Age of Persons Killed: 42.
Average Age of Persons Injured: 47.

In total, 117 civilians were injured. 51% of those receiving treatment in the city’s hospitals in the days following the attack were women, whilst 43% were men. 27% of those receiving treatment were 60 or older, the eldest of whom was a woman aged 87. Despite the high average age of those injured, 6% were children – treated at Mariupol’s No. 3 children’s hospital. Amongst them was 3-year-old Milana Adburashytova whose leg was amputated from injuries sustained from Grad rockets. Her mother was killed whilst shielding her from the attack.  

Today a mural of Milana Adburashytova overlooks the city of Mariupol. (Jake Tacchi)

Given the available information, it is clear that the proportion of children killed or injured by the attack was relatively low, whilst the average age of victims was high. This is less reflective of the nature of Grads, but rather the fact that the attack occurred on a Saturday morning, meaning that although several schools were badly hit by rockets, they were mostly empty of students. Undoubtedly, had the attack taken place during the week, child casualties would have been far greater. 

Furthermore, Vostochny’s proximity to the front line of ongoing conflict had resulted in many people – typically those with young families – moving either to more central parts of Mariupol, elsewhere in Ukraine, or abroad. As a result, Vostochny, like many other areas close to the conflict line in Ukraine, has a much older population.


In the past ten years, Grad strikes have killed and injured at least 1,223 people globally. Of those, 779 (64%) have been civilians. As English-language media reports are typically unable to accurately disaggregate casualty figures by gender and age, AOAV’s EVM fails to fully capture gender breakdowns amongst those killed and injured in attacks. However, at least 20% of the incidents of Grad use have seen women amongst those killed or injured, whilst 32% involved children. AOAV have recorded 24 child casualties resulting from Grad MLRS attacks between 2011 and 2020 – it is likely that the actual figure is much higher.

16.2.1 – Number of indirect civilian deaths and injuries from explosive weapons, disaggregated by gender and age

Case Study

Given the nature of the Mariupol attack, it is clear that indirect civilian deaths and injuries were limited. UNIDIR defines this indicator as those killed or injured ‘from a loss of access to essential goods and services as a consequence of explosive weapons use’. As no hospitals in Mariupol suffered damage or disruption to their services as a result of the attack and there was no shortage of medical supplies, it was difficult to find any firm evidence of indirect death or injury resulting from this event. 

It seems that the greatest potential for indirect harm could have emerged from the widespread destruction of windows in the district. Given that January temperatures in Mariupol can fall well below zero, and the windows of more than 1,500 apartments had been damaged by blasts, the cold could have posed significant health risks. However, a fast and well-organised operation by the local government and emergency services meant that residents were supplied with temporary heaters and film coverings for damaged or destroyed windows. As a result, there is no evidence to suggest that anyone succumbed to pneumonia or other health-problems associated with the cold.


Although examples exist of Grad rockets damaging hospitals, there is scarce evidence to directly attribute indirect death or injury to this weapon type. Furthermore, as Grads attacks in the past decade have exclusively been recorded within the context of wider conflicts, finding concrete evidence that preventable death or injury was the result of Grads, rather than conflict more widely, will always create serious methodological challenges. 

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