At least eight thousand people in Russian-occupied Mariupol, Donetsk region, have been killed as a result of Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine

At least eight thousand people in Russian-occupied Mariupol, Donetsk region, have been killed as a result of Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine

Mariupol, Ukraine (Svidomi) — Human Rights Watch has published a new report on the destruction of Mariupol in the Donetsk region, which has been partially occupied by Russia since 2014.

Human Rights Watch and the Ukrainian organisation Truth Hounds conducted 240 interviews and analysed 850 photos, videos, documents and satellite images.

Between March 2022 and February 2023, more than 10,000 people were buried. At least eight thousand people died as a result of the hostilities. It is unknown how many of them were civilians.

According to Ukrainian data, more than 425,000 people lived in Mariupol before Russia's full-scale invasion. The UN noted that approximately 350,000 left the city in spring 2022.

"Despite the challenges of investigating war crimes in areas made inaccessible by Russian occupation, we and our partners have spent nearly two years uncovering the truth about the horrific crimes committed by Russian forces in Mariupol. This investigation aims to ensure that these crimes will never be forgotten and that the perpetrators will face justice,"

said Roman Avramenko, executive director of Truth Hounds.

HRW emphasises that the total death toll could be much higher. Some graves contained multiple bodies, while others may have been buried under rubble.

HRW and Truth Hounds have investigated 14 attacks in detail, including Russian attacks on two hospitals, a drama theatre, a food warehouse, an aid distribution centre, a supermarket and residential buildings.

"In each of these incidents, we found no evidence of a Ukrainian military presence in or near the building that was struck, which would have made the attack unlawfully indiscriminate. Or we found a limited military presence, which likely made the attack unlawfully disproportionate," 

the report said.

The Russians are changing the physical landscape of the city. Damaged buildings are being demolished and replaced with new ones. By failing to create conditions for independent investigations, Russia has "effectively erased the physical evidence at hundreds of potential crime scenes across the city".

Russia is destroying "markers of Ukrainian identity" by introducing a Russian school curriculum and forcibly issuing Russian passports to locals. Mariupol's occupation administration is restricting residents' ability to express their opinions and communicate with the outside world.

HRW and Truth Hounds also identified 17 units of Russian and Russian-affiliated forces operating in the city in March and April 2022. In addition to Putin and Russian Armed Forces Commander-in-Chief Shoigu, the organisations also held First Deputy Defence Minister Valery Gerasimov, First Deputy Chief of the Russian General Staff Sergey Rudskoy, then Commander of the Southern Military District Aleksandr Dvornikov and others responsible for war crimes.

"International bodies and governments committed to justice should focus on investigating the senior Russian officials who appear linked to overseeing war crimes in this once vibrant city," 

said HRW's Crisis and Conflict Manager Ida Sawyer.