Destroyed building in Vodiane. Donbas, October 2016
Article by: “Justice for Peace in Donbas” coalition
During the war in the Donbas, in addition to serious violations of human rights — extrajudicial executions, torture, and unlawful detention in places of captivity — numerous cases of crimes against the civilian population have been recorded as well. Of particular significance is the deliberate destruction of the homes and property of the residents affected by the armed conflict.
The Kharkiv Human Rights Group, a member of the “Justice for Peace in Donbas” coalition, has collected, documented, and processed information about crimes committed since the beginning of the war. In particular, the investigators have been able to ascertain what percentage of damaged housing units have been restored, what kinds financial resources were used to do this, and if the damage has been properly documented.
The human rights advocates were able to make seven visits to settlements located on the contact line. They spoke with local residents affected by the shelling, with relatives of people who died as a result of the armed conflict, with former prisoners, and with other victims of war.
As a result of the monitoring, they were able to collect information on more than 1,000 cases of buildings destroyed by shelling. Almost all local roads have been destroyed by bullets and explosives as well as by the movement of heavy artillery.
In some towns controlled by the Ukrainian government, the post offices are not functioning at all and telecommunications are operating intermittently, complicating the work of local governments considerably. In some towns and villages there are no local representatives of the police. As a result, residents whose housing was destroyed cannot even turn to law enforcement to open criminal proceedings.
In addition, much of the farmland has become unfit for use because of damage to arable soil from shelling and bombing.
The situation is even worse in the occupied territories of the Donetsk Oblast. Here, during the war, more than 2,500 residential and social services buildings were destroyed or damaged. Only 366 buildings have been repaired so far. Another 10,000 residential building in 20 towns have been severely affected by the armed conflict.
In most cases, the owners of private buildings have been forced to take care of the reconstruction of the damaged property themselves. A similar situation exists in the occupied part of the Luhansk Oblast.
In the section of the Luhansk Oblast that is under the control of the Ukrainian government, more than 9,000 buildings and infrastructure assets have been destroyed: 7,000 residential buildings, more than 400 roads, 30 bridges, 90 health facilities, 100 schools, 250 technical networks, and almost 80 cultural and sports institutions. Some schools and health facilities have been restored. However, as of August 2016, nearly 6,000 buildings of all kinds remain destroyed or damaged.
As a result of shelling and fighting 77 apartment buildings have been destroyed as well as 595 private buildings, 5 schools, 4 kindergartens, the vocational school and the city hospital.
Two bridges, more than 700 meters of pavement, 61 private buildings, schools, and a two-story apartment building have been destroyed. Some 6 million hryvnias (UAH) will be required for reconstruction. So far only 600,000 UAH are available.
The other serious threat hanging over Novohorodske is the likelihood of an ecological disaster. The Inkor & Co., a producer of naphthalene and phenol, operates in the village. Toxic carbonate waste is stored in sludge ponds and reservoirs, which complicates the passage of water through the dam. In 2015 the dam and water drainage system that maintains a certain level of water in the reservoirs with toxic waste were damaged by shelling.
Shelling has damaged 24 private buildings: the village council building, an apartment building, the art school, and the branch of the Artemivsk professional agrarian lyceum. The building of the local medical center and obstetric department were completely destroyed.
In addition, heavy military equipment destroyed 5.5 kilometers of roads, and more that 100 hectares of land were made unusable because of mines and fortifications.
In early August 2014, approximately 200 village residents suffered from shelling by the BM-30 Smerch missiles that was directed mainly at the base of the Volia Battalion, which was located near the village. Several shots hit the ammunition depot, which led to powerful explosions. As a result of shelling 140 buildings were damaged, most of which still have not been repaired.
The bridge over the Siversky Donetsk River was blown up during the bombing of the checkpoint located in the village. One of the bombs hit the Stanytsia Luhansk center, killing 9 people, including a 5-year-old child. Another 11 people were injured, five seriously. Some 100 residential buildings, a school, the building of the district department of education, several buildings, bus station and roads were destroyed.
The “Justice for Peace in Donbas” coalition is engaged in documenting crimes committed during the armed conflict in eastern Ukraine. Every testimony about violations of human rights has an impact on how quickly perpetrators will be brought to justice, including by the international judiciary.
Each one of us can help restore justice and peace in the Donbas. If you know about cases of unlawful detention or imprisonment in the Donbas, please fill out a special secure form online on the coalition site. The coalition will not publish the information without your written consent and will not pass it on to third parties.