Eastern Ukraine: Investigate deadly artillery strike on civilian bus

An artillery strike on a bus that killed 10 civilians and wounded 18 in eastern Ukraine must be investigated urgently as it could amount to a violation of international humanitarian law, Amnesty International said. 

An unguided Grad artillery system was apparently used in the strike, but at present it is unclear where the attack came from. It hit a civilian bus which was passing through a military checkpoint controlled by pro-Kyiv forces in the town of Volnovakha. 

“The world needs to know the truth about this tragic incident. It must be investigated thoroughly, impartially and independently, as a possible violation of the laws of war,” said Denis Krivosheev, Deputy Europe and Central Asia Director at Amnesty International.  

“Those responsible for this incident either failed to take steps to protect civilians, as demanded by international humanitarian law, or it was a deliberate act which would constitute a war crime.”

Photographs circulated on social media in the aftermath showed the bus with its windows blown out and its side pock-marked with shrapnel blast marks. Blood can be seen staining the snow alongside the vehicle.   

Shortly after the attack, pro-separatist news sites reported that the Ukrainian checkpoint had been destroyed. But a senior representative of the self-styled Donetsk People’s Republic, the area’s de facto authorities, later reportedly claimed their artillery was unable to reach the checkpoint.

A nominal ceasefire was agreed in eastern Ukraine in September 2014, but upwards of 1,400 people have been killed since then as both sides increasingly engage in tit-for-tat reprisals. In all, almost 5,000 people have died since the conflict broke out last year.