Russian forces have been implicated in a war crime after carrying out an aerial attack on the southern Ukrainian city of Mykolaiv on 21 March 2022. The attack targeted civilian areas, hitting the Ingul hotel and the Mykolaiv Regional Psychiatric Hospital No. 1, killing five civilians and injuring three. Truth Hounds, a human rights team that documents war crimes, investigated the incident and provided information to local authorities. They concluded that the attack contained all the characteristics of a war crime and identified the perpetrators.
During the investigation, the Truth Hounds used aerial images captured by a Mavic J3 quadcopter drone to establish the type of ammunition used in the attack, as well as to locate new material evidence and to establish additional details about the incident. The high-quality aerial footage was key to the investigation, allowing to piece together a comprehensive picture of the incident, confirming the severity of the attack and aiding in the identification of the perpetrators.
Particularly, by analyzing the physical evidence alongside the drone footage, Truth Hounds concluded that the weapon used was likely an RBK-500 ZAB-2.5 incendiary cluster bomb, a weapon banned by international law due to the suffering and destruction it causes.
They narrowed down the launch location to Belbek in occupied Crimea and the possible perpetrators to the 2nd or 3rd squadron of the 559th Bombardment Regiment of the 1st Guards Mixed Aviation Division of the 4th Army of the Russian Space and Air Force, permanently located at the airfield in Morozovsk, Rostov Oblast. In 2015, this regiment bombed civilian objects in Syria.
The evidence gathered in the investigation into the Mykolaiv attack made it clear that Russian forces deliberately targeted civilian areas, committing a war crime in the process. Even if the attack was directed at the Mykolaiv ship repair factory, the munitions used were unguided, which is a war crime in itself. Moreover, Ukraine’s fleet was destroyed, and the ship repair factory could not have been a legitimate target, Truth Hounds argues, presenting arguments to support the classification of this attack as a war crime.