Reportage. There are traces of cluster bombs in the Ukrainian city of Mykolaiv, and soldiers hunt for Russian saboteurs at checkpoints.

Mykolaiv defends itself behind tires as Russian forces terrorize civilians

The checkpoints from Odessa to Mykolaiv are moving very slowly. In addition to documents, the military are checking luggage racks and, in some cases, are also inspecting bags, glove compartments and even the spaces under the seats of vans.

Not to mention that after 22 days of war, the Ukrainians are fed up with the queues and are squeezing into every available inch of the roadway, causing an endless cacophony of horns. The last checkpoint, the one on the bridge, is the slowest, and our driver was even asked for their license in order to pass.

Denys Monastyrsky, the Ukrainian interior minister, said on Thursday morning that “Russian saboteurs are almost everywhere in the country, even in the western regions.”

Even more worrisome, however, was the statement by the Defense Center for Countering Disinformation that “saboteurs could enter Ukraine disguised as journalists.” Fortunately, these Russian infiltrating journalists would presumably have the accreditation of Russian newspapers, so at least there wouldn’t be too much potential for confusion.

In Odessa, what is most striking is the white sandbags; in Mykolaiv, it’s the black tires. They are everywhere, in front of checkpoints, in the middle of streets, defending intersections and buildings.

Sometimes they are filled with cement or earth, in other cases they are just piled up in bulk and held together by wire or wooden poles. According to Ivan, the center of Mykolaiv has already begun to be bombed, but the heaviest attacks have been in the suburbs.

He wants to show us where he lives, in an area south of the port, not far from Kherson (which has been in Russian hands for a few days). Some of the streets around his house are a cemetery of rubble and wreckage of cars and vehicles, pieces of plaster still stuck to ceilings swinging in the wind, broken roofs and craters.

We pick up Ivan’s younger brother, who is carrying a large suitcase, and head back towards the center. Several times we hear big bangs, and it’s hard to say what it is or who it is.

In the past few days, a bomb hit an agricultural warehouse, and from the ripped metal sheets came a torrent of onions, which an old woman with her head covered by a handkerchief is now collecting in a wicker basket. We try to get out here, but the soldiers from the nearby checkpoint immediately approach to ask what we’re doing there, and Ivan, to avoid problems, gives us a sign to get back in the car.

On one of the main roads that cut through the center, we see an entire building with broken glass and a facade disfigured by the bombings. On the ground, the asphalt is full of small craters and debris. A few days ago, there was talk of the discovery of unexploded cluster bombs and fragments expelled by them.

As is now known, the use of these devices against civilians is considered a war crime, and there are several UN resolutions calling for their decommissioning. The reason is that this type of bomb has a negligible effect on vehicles and buildings, but a devastating effect on humans.

Imagine a cylindrical metal casing equipped with a small parachute that descends slowly and is designed to explode before it hits the ground, releasing a myriad of fragments of metal or other materials that become incandescent upon detonation and spurt in all directions.

We emphasize: this is intended to take place at human height. After such an attack, the bodies of the fallen are torn, mutilated, lacerated. And those who survive often find themselves with metal plates fused to their skin that must be surgically removed.

It is a macabre spectacle, and many will remember the images that became widespread at the time of the conflict in the Balkans, in which, according to many testimonies and a number of questions before the European Parliament, NATO was responsible for using this terrible weapon. In the aftermath of those events, this type of bomb is formally banned today, and most countries in the world (except Russia and China, for example) have signed a resolution against its use.

Now, on March 3, the mayor of Pokrovsk, northwest of Donetsk, denounced the use of cluster bombs by Russian forces, while the Kremlin immediately denied it. A week later, the spokesman of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said he had received “credible reports of several cases of Russian forces using cluster munitions, including in populated areas.”

From Mykolaiv came the first testimonies of journalists who filmed the fragments near the areas affected by bombing. Ever since the Russian attacks have increased in intensity, it seems that they have returned to “regular” weapons; but the concern remains high.

On the topic of the aftermath of the bombings, it has unfortunately been confirmed that the two firemen who were injured as they intervened to quell the fires generated by last night’s attack in the Sviatoshynskyi district of Kiev have died as a result of the injuries they sustained in the line of duty.

Also in the context of the battle for the conquest of the capital—according to the police of the Kyiv oblast—the Russian bombings of the village of Novi Petrivtsi have left four wounded and a 2-year-old child dead.

The attack almost destroyed an apartment building and damaged several houses nearby, so the death toll is also expected to climb higher. In the district of Darnytskiy, southeast of the capital, the shooting down of a missile by the Ukrainian anti-aircraft forces caused a fragment to split off which hit the sixteenth floor of a residential building, causing a fire. At press time, at least one dead person and three wounded were reported.

Mariupol is still the most affected city, according to figures released by the municipal administration: between 50 and 100 bombs are being dropped on the city every day. Even without the exact figures, it was already clear that Mariupol was the epicenter of this humanitarian disaster that has been worsening exponentially for more than three weeks.

Since March 2, the city has been without water, gas, electricity, phone lines, food and medicine, and the news of the attack on the theater housing refugees only worsened an already tragic picture.

Nevertheless, the fighting has not stopped, and on Thursday footage was released filmed from a drone as it was attacking and destroying a Russian tank (although we have no way to verify the date of the video).

In the meantime, the fighting continues in Kharkiv and in Donbass, and everyone is wondering how much longer this havoc will last.

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