As civilian deaths rise in Ukraine, Russia deploys familiar apology

When Russia was accused of striking the center of Vinnytsia, a Ukrainian town far from the front lines, last Thursday, Moscow’s version of events was familiar.

“On July 14, Kalibr (cruise) missiles were launched at the Officers’ House in Vinnytsia,” the Russian Defense Ministry said. said strikes that killed at least 25 civilians, including three children. He claimed the building was hosting a meeting between Ukrainian military officials and foreign arms suppliers.

The last month of the Russian invasion saw a vague of missile strikes deep in Ukrainian territory as Moscow halted its eastern advance, with Kyiv saying 70% of those strikes deliberately target “peaceful” cities.

Despite growing examples of Russia seemingly targeting civilian areas, Moscow continues to shirk responsibility with a handful of talking points seeking to deflect and deny.

Whether blaming Ukraine or attempting to portray civilian areas as military targets, Russia’s alibis have followed a pattern, Brian Castner, war crimes investigator for Amnesty International, told Reuters. Moscow Times.

“Lately we’ve seen Russian denials of attacks completely out of touch with reality,” Castner said. “The Russians will claim to have hit a mercenary training camp, or a high-level meeting of Ukrainian generals, when in reality they hit a residential block full of civilians.”

Vinnytsia Square after Thursday’s Russian airstrike.

A few days before the Vinnytsia attack, a Soviet-made missile penetrated a residential block in the eastern town of Chasiv Yar, reduce the five-story building in rubble and murder 48, making it one of the deadliest attacks of the Russian invasion.

Russia said the attack had “destroyed the temporary deployment point” of a Ukrainian territorial defense unit.

Pointing fingers

At the start of the war, Russia often predicted attacks days before they would happen, planting a series of false flags before the strike, Castner said.

Days before the Mariupol Drama Theater bombing in March, pro-Kremlin Telegram channels warned of an impending attack on the building, describing it as a potential attempt by Kyiv to stir up outrage in the West.

Shortly after, two 500-kilogram bombs dropped from a Russian fighter jet, shattering the roof of the theater and exploding simultaneously, an Amnesty investigation foundas hundreds of civilians took shelter inside.

Kremlin-aligned figures have accused Kyiv of distorting facts, using its own citizens as human shields and staging atrocities throughout the conflict in order to shock international audiences and maintain high levels of Western support.

Maria Dubovikova, an expert at the state-funded Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC) think tank, told the Moscow Times that “[Ukrainian] state propaganda and media spinning are among the most effective weapons in Kyiv’s arsenal, so they [Kyiv] adopted an “anything goes” strategy to maintain Western media interest in the Ukrainian conflict. »

On June 27, two Russian anti-ship missiles hit the Amstor shopping center in Kremenchuk, central Ukraine, killing 20 shoppers and injuring 56, many of whom were trapped inside when the building caught fire .

In the hours following the strike, pro-Kremlin channels called the attack a “planned provocation” by Kyiv.

The Mariupol Drama Theater in southern Ukraine after being hit by Russian missiles.  Yegor Aleyev / TASS

The Mariupol Drama Theater in southern Ukraine after being hit by Russian missiles.
Yegor Aleyev / TASS

Closest to Russia accepting responsibility for an attack on civilian infrastructure since the start of the war, the Ministry of Defense later claimed it had successfully hit an ammunition store near the center commercial, the resulting fire causing the “non-functioning”. » shopping center to ignite.

“Ukrainian forces use civilian areas and multi-storey buildings to deploy troops, ammunition and anti-tank weapons during Russian offensive maneuvers, creating human shields to prevent advancing Russian troops,” said RIAC’s Dubovikova. .

“Russian forces are doing everything they can to preserve civilian lives and avoid non-combat casualties. Sometimes at the higher cost of losing their own military personnel,” she added.

The town of Chasiv Yar, in the Donetsk region, following a Russian rocket attack.

The town of Chasiv Yar, in the Donetsk region, following a Russian rocket attack.

First-hand accounts, CCTV footage and satellite images analyzed by experts later discredited Moscow’s claims, concluding that the mall was fully functioning when it received a direct hit from a Russian missile, a report by the BBC said.

‘Not ashamed’

Absolving Russia of wrongdoing in Ukraine has been a crucial Kremlin tactic throughout the war, said Andrei Kolesnikov, senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

The slogan ‘We are not ashamed’ has appeared on T-shirts and other merchandise since February, while President Vladimir Putin has often claimed that Russia has ‘no choice’ but to invade neighboring Ukraine.

“The logic of the Kremlin is to repeat these statements all the time, so as not to lose the obedient part of the national audience,” Kolesnikov said.

Besides, “what else can they say?” Admit that they are on the side of evil? Kolesnikov added.

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