The human rights office UN announced that it received “reliable reports” of several cases in which armed forces Russian used cluster bombs in populated areas of Ukraineadding that the indiscriminate use of these could constitute a war crime.
The UN agency has dozens of monitors in the country and more are expected to arrive once a commission set up by the Council, which is based in Geneva, to investigate possible war crimes is operational.
The body has confirmed at least 549 civilian deaths in Ukraine since the Russian invasion began on February 24, but says the real number is likely higher.
“Because of their wide-ranging effects, the use of cluster munitions in populated areas is incompatible with the principles of international humanitarian law that govern the conduct of fighting,” spokeswoman Liz Throssell said in Geneva.
“We remind the Russian authorities that targeted attacks against civilians and civilian objects, as well as the shelling of towns and villages and other forms of indiscriminate attacks, are prohibited under international law and may constitute war crimes.”
Cluster bombs are made up of a hollow shell that bursts in mid-air, scattering tens or even hundreds of smaller “explosives” over a wide area.
Russia is not a party to a 2008 convention banning cluster munitions, but it is bound by international humanitarian law, in particular the ban on indiscriminate attacks.
Ukraine on Friday accused Russian forces of attacking a psychiatric hospital near the eastern city of Izium. Throssell called the reports of attacks on health centers in Ukraine “shocking.”
A World Health Organization (WHO) database showed on Friday that there have so far been 27 confirmed attacks on health care facilities since the Russian invasion began, without naming the perpetrators. Russia denies it is targeting civilians in what it calls its “special operation” to disarm Ukraine.
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