Twenty civilians were killed following a violent missile attack on a bread queue in an urban area in Chernihiv, north-east Ukraine last year, the Starvation Mobile Justice Team (SMJT) has reported.
Launched at the beginning of this year, the team is one of several established by Global Rights Compliance, an international human rights law firm spearheaded by Wayne Jordash KC.
All the teams are gathering intelligence to support the Ukrainian Office of the Prosecutor General (OPG) as it monitors Russian war crimes.
The SMJT is specifically investigating starvation and related violations across Ukraine.
The civilians were hit by high explosive fragmentation projectiles while waiting outside Soyuz, a food store and a place to collect fresh deliveries from food trucks.
The weapons that are thought to have been used were the 122mm Grad rocket system and a Howitzer which are inaccurate in their targetting.
The unit claims Russian drones were operating at the same time, meaning Russian forces would have had sight of the civilians they were planning to fire on.
A Grad rocket is capable of firing 40 rockets in 20 seconds, and specifically manufactured to be able to clear a one-kilometre square block. Firing the rocket into a populous urban area is very likely to kill civilians and wreak damage, the SMJT report says.
Elsewhere in Chernihiv, air and artillery attacks on critical water infrastructure have been reported, while a broader range of tactics have been witnessed across the region. The “medieval” methods identified include pillaging agricultural machinery, blocking ports, obstructing humanitarian access and shelling residential areas, hospitals and supermarkets.
Catriona Murdoch, partner and head of starvation portfolio at the human rights firm said the starvation crimes are “the tip of the iceberg” in Russian President Vladimir Putin‘s plans to “terrorise, subjugate and kill” Ukrainians.
“From our initial investigations into Russia’s starvation crimes in Ukraine, the evidence is pointing towards a deliberate plan carefully designed to undermine and attack the very foundation and societal fabric of Ukrainians, subjecting them to inhumane living conditions,” she said.
But she added the team are confident the “perpetrators of the crimes can be identified”.
“It is imperative that these crimes are fully investigated so that we can create a bedrock of truth and a historical record which can be used both to counter Russia’s lies and to find justice for Ukraine’s victims and the survivors of these crimes.”