Attacks with internationally banned cluster munitions were reported from Kharkiv in the first days of the war. According to media research, the attack bears the signature of a Russian commander who had already acted unscrupulously in Syria.
She comes out of nowhere and leaves a battlefield in her wake that spans several football pitches.
Cluster munitions are not used for precise attacks, but rather to inflict as much damage as possible at once. They are rockets or bombs that burst while still in the air, decomposing a large number of small explosive devices the size of a spray can.
Because of their unpredictable magnitude, cluster munitions are banned in many countries. To date, 110 countries have ratified a convention against cluster munitions – but Ukraine and Russia are not among them.
Cluster munitions are said to have been used in the war in Ukraine, according to UN estimates at the end of March at least two dozen times – for example, at the beginning of the war several so-called Smerch missiles are said to have fallen on Kharkiv within 48 hours.
Research by CNN should now show who was behind the attacks. Through analysis of satellite imagery and field investigations, the American news channel was able to trace 11 bombs to a Russian brigade in the Belgorod region. This is under the direct control of Alexander Shuravlev, the commander of the western district of the Russian military.
The attacks are said to have been approved by Shuravljow, because according to military experts, attacks with Smerch missiles were only possible with the commander’s consent, writes CNN. He is also the only one in the region who can decide on the use of cluster munitions.
Zhuravlyov is not an unfamiliar name. According to CNN, he was partly responsible for one of the most brutal chapters in the Syrian civil war. Under his command, eastern Aleppo, defended by Syrian rebels, was taken with tactics that would shape Russian warfare in Syria: besiege, starve, bombard, and wear down into submission.
Dramatic increase in cluster munition attacks
The use of cluster bombs also increased massively under Zhuravlev, according to a report by the Violation Documentation Center, which documents human rights violations in Syria. Within a month, 137 cluster munitions were used, which corresponds to an eightfold increase in such attacks compared to the previous eight months.
According to CNN, Zhuravlyov later said in an interview that Syria had taught him the value of “military ingenuity”. The lessons learned there would be integrated as an “organic part” of all Russian military training.
For his action in Syria, Shuravlyov received the highest Russian award: Hero of the Russian Federation.