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Ukraine: 9 killed, over 80 injured in Russian double-tap missile strike on Pokrovsk, Donetsk

On the evening of Monday 7 August, two Iskander missiles hit Pokrovsk city centre within approximately 40 minutes of each other. According to regional authorities, “12 high-rise buildings, a hotel, the building of a local prosecutor’s office, a Pension Fund building, a pharmacy, two shops, two cafes, and two civilian cars were damaged in the attack.” Zelensky stated that the second strike hit as rescue operations were beginning.

As of Wednesday 9 August, the death toll is at nine, including at least five civilians, two first responders, and one soldier, while those reported injured rose to 88: at least 39 civilians (two children), seven first responders, and 35 police and military personnel.

Officials accused Russia of deliberately targeting first responders and emergency services using double tap airstrikes – a tactic both the Russian and Syrian governments have used extensively in Syria, according to a July 2022  report by the Syria Justice and Accountability Centre. In a further October 2022 report, the centre analysed the use of double tap strikes to target hospitals, “maximising damage to the wounded as well as medical personnel and facilities.” 

Double-tap strikes target a particular location in two separate attacks: an initial strike hits the target, drawing out crowds and first responders, while the second targets “emergency responders, medical personnel, journalists, and bystanders who are drawn to the site to assist those affected by the initial strike.”

In her statement, the UN humanitarian coordinator in Ukraine, Denise Brown, described the attack in Pokrovsk as “a serious breach” of international law which violated “any principle of humanity.” International Humanitarian Law prohibits deliberate attacks on civilians, attacks on medical personnel, hospitals and humanitarian workers, and attacks that aim to create and spread terror among the civilian population. The Russian double-tap strike in Pokrovsk is part of a long pattern of violations by the Russian armed forces.

Overall, up to 09 August 2023, AOAV has recorded 15,553 civilian casualties of explosive weapon use in Ukraine (4, 807 killed, 10, 746 injured) since Russia’s full-scale invasion of the country, including at least 565 children, 787 women, and 951 men. 95% (14, 721) of civilian casualties have occurred in populated areas, in particular urban residential areas (5, 343 civilian casualties), multiple urban locations (5, 125), and villages (1, 294). 

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.