Explosive Violence in Ukraine in 2022

Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, on 24 February 2022, drove civilian casualties to the highest level the country has seen since AOAV began recording. Increasing by 36,868%, from 28 civilians harmed in 2021 to 10,351 last year, civilians accounted for 83% of all 12,417 casualties recorded in the country. Significantly, however, AOAV noted a lack of incident-specific reporting around military casualties on both sides, affecting our ability to accurately portray patterns of harm. Of the civilian casualties, 3,672 were killed and 6,679 injured. At least 320 children were among the civilians harmed, 295 women, and 337 men.

72% (7,452) of civilian casualties in Ukraine were caused by ground-launched weapons, which also accounted for 81% (1,494) of the 1,854 incidents recorded in the country last year. Air-launched weapons, which accounted for 6% (105) of incidents, caused 15% (1,543) of civilian casualties. On average, therefore, 15 civilians were harmed per airstrike in Ukraine in 2022. 

85% (1,575) of incidents of explosive weapon use in Ukraine were recorded in populated areas, compared to 16% (18) in 2021 – a proportional increase of 431%. 

State actors were the reported perpetrators in the case of 94% (1,745) of incidents in Ukraine last year, compared to 20% (22) in 2021. Similarly, in 2021 39% (11) of civilian casualties were caused by state actors, compared to 98% (10,178) in 2022. While Russian proxy groups and Ukrainian separatists perpetrated the majority of incidents in 2021, 74% (81), the shift incurred by the Russian invasion is illustrated in the fact that the Russian armed forces caused 90% (1,668) of incidents and 90% (9,290) of civilian casualties in Ukraine last year. 88% (1,472) of Russian explosive attacks in Ukraine were directed at populated areas. 

Donetsk was by far the worst affected region in the country last year. 36% (3,738) of civilian casualties and 35% (658) of incidents were recorded there, followed by 1,667 civilians harmed in Kharkiv, 871 in Mykolaiv, 713 in Zaporizhzhya, and 710 in Kherson. Almost five times more regions of Ukraine were impacted by explosive weapon use in 2022 compared to 2021: incidents were recorded in five regions in 2021, and in 25 regions last year.

Russia’s invasion has been characterised by deadly attacks targeting civilians and civilian infrastructure, with 45% (754) of Russian attacks directed at urban residential areas, 27% (457) across multiple urban locations, and 7% (121) in villages. The conflict has also been defined by the increasing polarisation of the warring parties and their allies, with seemingly few opportunities for diplomatic solutions to emerge as the rhetoric becomes increasingly confrontational, pitching the war as a battle for democratic ideals or a resistance to Western imperialism.

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