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Russian attack on Ukrainian civilians: accident or strategy?

Three young children are killed while walking with their parents during attacks on Vinnystia, a Ukrainian town outside the largest military concentrations. Scenes like this involving civilians in regions far from the fronts are frighteningly common. Since the Russian invasion of the neighboring country, there is evidence that hitting civilians is not just an accident: it is part of the Russian strategy.

In addition to targeting schools, hospitals, homes and shopping centers, the troops of Vladimir Putin has concentration camps in Ukraine, where ordinary people are beaten and executed. A non-governmental organization points out that there are at least 18 camps in which Ukrainians are tortured.


In July, three missiles hit residential buildings and a holiday club, killing dozens of civilians, including children, in the Odessa region. A week earlier, a missile hit a supermarket in the small town of Krementchouck, killing twenty-two people shopping in one late afternoon.

“We do not read the minds of Russian commanders, but we observe that attacks are usually carried out in broad daylight, when there are crowds in the streets. There is often not even a military target nearby,” noted Kirill Mikhailov, a member of the Conflict Intelligence Team, a group of military analysts founded by Russians. who are now in exile, told Le Monde newspaper.

“This is Russia’s new tactic: attacking residential areas and putting pressure on Western political elites to force Ukraine to the negotiating table. It won’t work,” Mykhailo Podoliak, an adviser to Ukraine’s presidential government, told a press conference in early July.

Late last month, US Ambassador to Kiev Bridget Brink said that Washington is “examining the possibility of defining Russia with the sponsor of terrorism”. European diplomacy, through its leader Josep Borrell, spoke of “barbaric behavior” and denounced war crimes carried out by Russians.

Concentration camps

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The extreme of this cruelty takes place in at least 18 centers of concentration established by the Russians in the occupied areas of the Donbass, according to a report by the organization Media Initiative for Human Rights, delivered on 28 July to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

In these centers, Russians and pro-Russian separatists mainly supervise men suspected of carrying weapons or being undercover agents, but also targeting women or minors.

During these inspections, civilians are subjected to physical and psychological pressure, as the report points out. Victoria, a woman from Mariupol, was detained with her husband in Bezimenne in Donetsk oblast. “At 12:30 a soldier entered the room, called my husband by his last name and ordered him out. It was the last time I saw him. His mother tried to find out where he had been taken. They said no one would tell us and that he must have been shot,” Victoria reported, according to the document.

Another witness, Mariya Vdovychenko, described a conversation held between two Donbass separatist soldiers in the village of Manhush, where she was interrogated: “What did you do with those who went through the filtering?” one of them asked. , then I stopped counting, because it got boring”, replied the other.

Oleksii, who was detained in a concentration camp in Olenivka, detailed the living conditions there: “There were 40 of us in a cell, 18 were sleeping while the others remained standing.” The witness also reported, according to the report, that the detainees were rationed for water, had no toilet facilities and were “constantly beaten.”

Why civilians?

For retired colonel and Ukrainian military expert Serhi Grabsky,“civilians are vulnerable to attack” due to the psychological effect. “Night alerts wear people down. The Russians want the total destruction of any spirit of civil resistance, because they have not been able to break the Ukrainian army,” the expert told Le Monde. According to him, Russia has enough arsenal to continue its terror campaign “for at least another six months. “.

Sergueï Jirnov, former KGB officer and specialist in Russian militarism, writes in the book L’Engrenage (published by Albin Michel, without translation into Portuguese) that “Russian, in his system of perverse thinking, he only respects those he is afraid of.” “Like cowards, he tests his opponent and observes his reaction to know how far he can go”, emphasizes Jirnov.

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