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Devastation Strikes Ukrainian Market as Conflict Rages On

In a tragic turn of events, a bustling market in Kostyantynivka, a city located in Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk region, became the recent target of a deadly attack. At least 16 individuals, including a child, perished when, at midday, a Russian ground-launched S-300 missile transformed a peaceful shopping district into a sombre scene of smouldering rubble and mournful loss. Preliminary counts had reported 17 fatalities, but the number was subsequently revised to 16, with at least 33 injured in the attack. This figure includes at least 15 civilians killed, and 22 injured.

The shockwaves of the attack reverberated across the digital sphere, with social media platforms inundated with harrowing visuals of the incident. The sight of an intense orange explosion at the end of the market street, and its devastating aftermath, has gripped global audiences. Video evidence illustrates the scale of the calamity, capturing the moment of the explosion and its subsequent catastrophic consequences.

President Volodymyr Zelensky was swift to condemn the act, denouncing it as a symbol of “utter inhumanity” and asserting its deliberate nature. Taking aim at Moscow, whom he holds responsible, Zelensky lamented the loss of innocent lives, emphasising that the victims were ordinary individuals, committing no wrong. A chilling reminder from Zelensky underscored the possible escalation in the death toll, a testament to the sheer magnitude of the devastation.

Interestingly, this tragic episode occurred simultaneously with the visit of US Secretary of State Antony Blinken to Ukraine. Amidst the alarming sounds of sirens echoing across Ukraine and Kyiv’s air defences working overtime to fend off missiles directed at the capital, Blinken announced an aid package for the war-torn nation, worth over $1 billion.

Notably, this isn’t the first time Kostyantynivka, precariously positioned near the volatile front line, has faced such aggressions. Previous incidents this year have left its residents scarred, with attacks damaging apartment blocks, nursery schools, pharmacies, and more. The city’s proximity to intense fighting zones, particularly to Bakhmut in the Donetsk region, accentuates its vulnerability.

AOAV has recorded 62 incidents of Russian explosive weapons use targeting Kostiantynivka since 24 February 2022, resulting in 209 civilian casualties in the town (59 killed, 150 injured). Overall, Donetsk is the worst affected region in Ukraine for civilian casualties from Russian explosive weapons: AOAV has recorded 1,270 incidents of Russian explosive violence in the oblast, and 4,986 civilian casualties (1,887 killed, 3,099 injured). 

Russia’s embassy in Washington promptly criticised Blinken’s announced military assistance, particularly expressing disapproval of the supply of weapons with depleted uranium, terming it as an “indicator of inhumanity.” Despite the accusations, official channels in Russia have remained silent on the market attack, maintaining their earlier stance of not deliberately targeting civilians.

Ukraine, however, remains steadfast in its pursuit of justice. The prosecutor-general’s office is now actively chasing “criminal proceedings for violation of the laws and customs of war”, signalling their intent to document and challenge what they perceive as war crimes committed by the Russian Federation.

The conflict’s consequences aren’t restricted to the physical realm. The digital front has seen Ukrainian cyber teams fiercely clashing with their Russian counterparts, battling for supremacy and attempting to influence narratives. 

AOAV, which records casualties caused by explosive weapons use as reported in English-language media sources such as the BBC, Reuters, Associated Press, or the Guardian, as well as Ukrainian sources such as Ukrinform, Interfax Ukraine, and the Kyiv Independent, and independent Russian outlets like Meduza and the Moscow Times, has recorded 3,472 incidents of Russian explosive violence in Ukraine since 24 February 2022. Of these incidents, which have led to the death of 4,449 civilians and the injury of 9,843, 91% (3,169) were recorded in populated areas – areas where 95% (14,133) of civilian casualties of Russian explosive weapons occurred. 

In particular, 46% (1,590) of Russian explosive weapons use in Ukraine since 24 February 2022 has been recorded in urban residential areas, killing and injuring 5,062 civilians. Other affected location types are multiple urban areas (780 incidents, 5,059 civilian casualties), villages (543 incidents, 1,310 civilian casualties), entertainment premises (8 incidents, 683 civilian casualties), and town centres (23 incidents, 371 civilian casualties). 

AOAV’s casualty figures represent the lowest of estimations in terms of the number of people killed and injured by explosive weapon use. In an effort to quantify the explicit harm caused by specific explosive weapons, AOAV solely records incident-specific casualty figures, as reported in English-language media.

AOAV condemns the use of violence against civilians and the use of explosive weapons in populated areas. All actors should stop using explosive weapons with wide-area effects where there is likely to be a high concentration of civilians.