U.N. says Ukraine bears share of blame for nursing home attack

The report said the battle at the Stara Krasnyanka nursing home is emblematic of the concerns over the potential use of “human shields” to prevent military operations in certain areas. 

July 09, 2022 06:24 pm | Updated 08:44 pm IST - WASHINGTON:

The U.N. report says that a few days before the attack, Ukrainian soldiers took up positions inside the nursing home, effectively making the building a target. 

The U.N. report says that a few days before the attack, Ukrainian soldiers took up positions inside the nursing home, effectively making the building a target.  | Photo Credit: AFP

Two weeks after Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine in February, Kremlin-backed rebels assaulted a nursing home in the eastern region of Luhansk. Dozens of elderly and disabled patients, many of them bedridden, were trapped inside without water or electricity.

The March 11 assault set off a fire that spread throughout the facility, suffocating people who couldn’t move. A small number of patients and staff escaped and fled into a nearby forest, finally getting assistance after walking for 5 kilometers (3 miles).

In a war awash in atrocities, the attack on the nursing home near the village of Stara Krasnyanka stood out for its cruelty. Ukrainian authorities placed the fault squarely on Russian forces, accusing them of killing more than 50 vulnerable civilians in a brutal and unprovoked attack.

But a new U.N. report has found that Ukraine’s armed forces bear a large, and perhaps equal, share of the blame for what happened in Stara Krasnyanka, which is about 580 kilometers (360 miles) southeast of Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine. A few days before the attack, Ukrainian soldiers took up positions inside the nursing home, effectively making the building a target.

At least 22 of the 71 patients survived the assault, but the exact number of people killed remains unknown, according to the United Nations.

The report by the U.N.'s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights doesn’t conclude the Ukrainian soldiers or the Moscow-backed separatist fighters committed a war crime. But it said the battle at the Stara Krasnyanka nursing home is emblematic of the human rights office’s concerns over the potential use of “human shields” to prevent military operations in certain areas.

The aftermath of the attack on the Stara Krasnyanka home also provides a window into how both Russia and Ukraine move quickly to set the narrative for how events are unfolding on the ground, even when those events may still be shrouded by the fog of war. For Ukraine, maintaining the upper hand in the fight for hearts and minds helps to ensure the continued flow of billions of dollars in Western military and humanitarian aid.

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