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Ukraine: 27 killed and 25 injured in artillery attack on market, Donetsk

On the morning of Sunday 21st January, at least 27 civilians were killed and 25 injured, including two children, when a busy market and shopping area in Donetsk’s Tekstilshchik neighbourhood was bombed with artillery shells. The city of Donetsk as well as parts of the wider territory have been under Russian control since 2014, and Moscow-installed officials blamed the Ukrainian army for the attack, claiming the shells were fired from the Kurakhove and Krasnohorivka areas to the west.

Ukrainian officials have not commented on the strike, but Ukraine’s Tavria unit operating in the southern zone stated that its forces “did not engage in combat operations in this case.” While outlets such as Reuters and Associated Press have not been able to verify reports, both Ukraine and Russia have been relying increasingly on long-range attacks as the war drags into its third year.

Photographs published by Reuters show extensive damage and harm, with people seen devastated as they recognise family members and search through the debris.

Overall, since Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine on 24 February 2022, Action on Armed Violence (AOAV) has recorded 19,265 civilian casualties (5,555 killed, 13,710 injured) across 4,727 incidents. Donetsk has been by far the worst impacted oblast in the country, accounting for 33% (6,349) of the civilian casualties across 1,611 recorded incidents.

The highest casualty incident recorded by AOAV in Donetsk occurred on 16 March 2022, when at least 600 people were killed in a Russian airstrike on Mariupol’s theatre, where over 1,000 civilians were sheltering, including children. Locals had written ‘children’ in large cyrillic letters on either side of the building. 

Ground-launched weapons have caused the majority, 69% (13,275), of civilian casualties in Ukraine since the beginning of the invasion, including 64% (3,539) of civilian fatalities, while air-launched weapons are reportedly responsible for 14% (2,778) of civilian casualties, including 25% (1,361) of civilian fatalities. On average, air-launched attacks have been the most injurious to civilians since 24 February 2022, with 7.3 civilians harmed per air-launched attack, and 3.6 civilians killed per air-launched attack.

The worst impacted locations in Ukraine have been residential and urban areas, which account for 66% (12,658) of civilian casualties. They also account for 65% (3,050) of incidents, reflecting the nature of a war where civilian infrastructure is targeted with alarming frequency and regularity. Other impacted locations include villages (1,879 civilian casualties), entertainment venues (709), town centres (475), and schools (363). 

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.