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Bellingcat confirms shelling of residential blocks in Avdiivka
10:53, 3 February 2017
Bellingcat confirms shelling of residential blocks in Avdiivka

Militants use residents of Donetsk as a human shield while shelling Avdiivka

10:53, 3 February 2017

Bellingcat

Bellingcat International investigative group in collaboration with the Conflict Intelligence Team (CIT) published a report on launching grads by the militants from the  residential areas of occupied Donetsk.

Social media accounts from a local pro-Ukrainian VK.com group in Donetsk monitoring outgoing and incoming shelling (see here, and here) suggest that combined Russian-separatists forces have been constantly firing Grads from the separatist-controlled Donetsk bypass highway near Auchan hypermarket.

As often is the case with shelling, social-media users reported incoming fire from government-controlled Avdiivka, including Grad MLRS, roughly at the same time as outgoing Grad fire was reported from Donetsk.

Rockets on video

Beside these reports, six videos were uploaded showing the usage of Multi-Launch-Rocket-Systems (MLRS) near Donetsk on 31 January 2017 and 1 February 2017. Two videos show launches at night and were published on 31 January 2017. Three videos published on 31 January 2017 show launches during the day, and another video showing a launch during the day was published on 1 February 2017. All six videos could be geolocated to the area near of the Auchan hypermarket.

The report states that the available evidence clearly documents that on 31 January 2017, multiple attacks with MLR systems were launched in proximity of the hypermarket Auchan in Donetsk. The location deep inside the so-called “DNR” and the firing directing pointing toward Avdiivka clearly document the responsible side for these particular attacks. One launch site is around 200 meters east of the hypermarket, and in fewer than 500 meters from a school and residential area. The second launch site is in proximity of the bypass and around 600 meters from an industrial area and 1000 meters from a residential area. Some of the attacks occured during the day while the nearby bypass was also used by civilians.

Related: Avdiivka: 200 people evacuated as of Friday morning

Given the proximity of both launch sites to civilian infrastructure in the area, a potential Ukrainian counter attack to surpress and respond to the rocket fire would have automatically risked civilian lives in the area. The cross-country mobility of the likely used MLR system, BM-21 Grad, would have allowed alternative launch sites. However, the repeated usage of the launch site 200 meters east of the hypermarket Auchan strongly suggest that the selection of this area happened on purpose, deliberately risking the lives of the civilians in the area.

As we reported earlier, no ceasefire is observed in this area of combat zone; the fights and artillery strikes continue for five days straight. According to Pavlo Zhebrivskyi, the Head of Donetsk regional state administration, the militants intentionally fire on living blocks to cause civilian casualties.

Related: British reporter wounded in Avdiivka

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