A child in the Kharkiv region was among the first to be killed in Russia’s bombardment of Ukraine early Thursday.
The boy, whose age has not yet been disclosed, was in a residential building in the city of Chuguiv when it came under attack by Russian forces, Ukrainian authorities said. According to the Conflict Intelligence Team, an independent investigative group, a “Smerch” Multiple Launch Rocket System was used to strike the area—which would make it a war crime.
Anton Gerashchenko, an adviser to the interior minister, echoed that account on Telegram, writing: “The Russians are lying! Smerch rockets struck the suburbs of Kharkiv.”
Using the rocket system to target populated, civilian areas is considered a violation of international humanitarian law, as it fires indiscriminately.
Amnesty International also condemned the attack, noting that “video footage shows the tail section of a rocket fired from a Smerch heavy multiple rocket launcher left sticking out of the pavement. Deliberate attacks on civilians and civilian property, and indiscriminate attacks that kill or injure civilians constitute war crimes.”
Several other people were injured in the assault, according to the State Emergency Service of Ukraine.
A devastating photo from the scene also showed a man weeping over the body of his father following the missile attack.
“I told him to leave,” the man was quoted telling AFP through sobs.
A massive missile crater was scorched into the ground near the obliterated apartment buildings.
The area was one of the first to be hit during Russia’s dawn invasion, which has already claimed dozens of Ukrainian lives.
In addition to reports of Smerch systems being used against Ukrainians, local news outlets also published videos purporting to show “Solntsepek” heavy flamethrower systems heading in the direction of Kyiv from Belarus.
The multi-barrel rocket launch systems are capable of incinerating anything in their path.
Russia’s Defense Ministry, against all evidence, has insisted it is only targeting military sites and sparing civilians.
But residents in numerous Ukrainian cities disputed that, and videos of as-yet unconfirmed attacks on residential areas flooded social media.
In a video purportedly from Mariupol, a resident said artillery fire had rained down and literally “shook” the whole area.
“There are no strategic facilities here, there are only people here!”
Another video widely shared on Telegram captured a young girl apparently talking with her parents as the family watched Russian helicopters circle homes in Kherson.
“Look at that, they’re circling here,” a woman can be heard saying as choppers are seen through a window.
“I said they’d come back here... They’re flying right over the houses.”
The older woman can be heard reassuring that “they won’t throw anything at the houses, they won’t touch the local population.”
But just as she says that, the young girl flies into a panic as the helicopters appear to drop missiles near several homes.
“They’re dropping something! They’re shooting at the houses!”