Human Rights Watch (HRW) has urged Russia to investigate three incidents during which Russian forces opened fire on civilian vehicles in Ukraine after the start of Moscow’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, killing six Ukrainians and wounding three.
The three incidents occurred between February 28 and March 3, HRW said. Two of them took place in Hostomel, a town about 20 kilometers northwest of Kyiv, while the third incident occurred in Nova Basan, a village in the Chernihiv region, 70 kilometers east of Kyiv.
In the first incident on February 28, Russian forces opened fire on two vehicles carrying nine civilians who were trying to flee the area.
On March 3, they shot at a vehicle with four men who were going to negotiate delivery of humanitarian aid.
In the third incident, Russian forces shot at a civilian van carrying two men, wounding one of them. Soldiers pulled the second man from the van and summarily executed him, while the wounded man escaped.
“Russian soldiers at checkpoints opened fire on passing vehicles without any apparent effort to verify whether the occupants were civilians,” said HRW’s Belkis Wille.
“The obligation to distinguish between civilians and combatants is a constant, as is the prohibition on targeting civilians, whether in their homes, on the streets, or in their cars,” Wille said.
HRW said that international humanitarian law and the laws of war forbid deliberately targeting civilians and that anyone who orders or deliberately commits such acts, or aids and abets them, is responsible for war crimes.
“Russia should conduct impartial, thorough, and transparent investigations into these killings and should compensate victims of any unlawful attacks,” the statement said.
“These incidents are indicative of Russian forces’ failure to abide by their obligations to always distinguish civilians and to minimize harm to them,” Wille said.
“The Russian military has an obligation to investigate these incidents, hold those responsible to account, and ensure these kinds of killings cease.”