As Russian strikes on Ukraine have intensified in recent months, Ukrainian authorities have set themselves the task of investigating Moscow’s war crimes against civilians. Our special correspondents Luke Shrago, Mélina Huet and Olga Ivashchenko were given special access to one of the few areas where missile debris is collected in the Kharkiv region.
The remains of Russian strikes on the city of Kharkiv alone stretch for hundreds of metres.
Across the country, investigators are cataloguing fragments of ballistic and cruise missiles that have fallen on Ukrainian soil, documenting what they consider to be Russian war crimes against civilians.
“We have to be extremely careful about what we film here, not to give away the location. Since what we’ve been told is that Russia tends to try and target any evidence left behind of its aggression in Ukraine, whether it’s the bodies of their own war dead to hide their losses or the remains of missiles and rockets like this that the Ukrainians want to use to try and build cases of war crimes,” reports FRANCE 24’s Luke Shrago.
Once the missiles have been collected, investigators link each piece of debris to a specific strike and its possible victims. “There is information like abbreviations, signs, symbols, numbers and figures which military specialists can decrypt and identify the factory where the missile was manufactured. It’s possible to find out which military unit the missile was sent to,” says Dymytro Chubenko, spokesperson for the Kharkiv Regional Prosecutor’s Office.
The Ukrainians can assess the level of their enemy’s ammunition stock by consulting the information that is embedded on the microchips stored within the missiles. “[The Russians have] already reached a critical level of reserves of these rockets, even for the defence of their own country if some other nation tried to invade them,” says Chubenko.
Russia nevertheless continues to bomb Kharkiv regularly, as was the case on January 10, just a few hours after German foreign affairs minister Annalena Baerbock made a surprise visit to this city in northeastern Ukraine.
“They are improving our position to gather more evidence. With every strike, they think they are doing us harm, but they are harming themselves,” says Chubenko.
Click on the player above to watch the report by FRANCE 24’s Luke Shrago, Mélina Huet and Olga Ivashchenko.
This story originally Appeared on France24