Reportage. The attacks from Russia fall on non-military targets with cluster bombs that devastate human bodies but cause little structural damage. In other words, Russia’s objective appears to be inflicting terror.

Russian bombs rain relentlessly on civilians in Mykolayiv

There is no rest for Mykolayiv: on Thursday night, the sirens sounded once again and several buildings in the north of the city were hit by the fragments of multiple cluster bombs.

At the scene, near a busy intersection, one can see that the walls of the buildings are now riddled with metal fragments from the explosion of the devices about a meter above the ground, and on the sidewalk one can see a small crater that is characteristic of these bombs. A carpet of broken glass covers the ground everywhere, coming from store windows and windows on the upper floors.

The soundtrack is provided by the noise of the fragments being gathered together using brooms without long handles, those short ones common in many areas of the former USSR, which force those who are using them to bend down almost at a ninety-degree angle. For many of us, it remains a mystery why they don’t just attach a longer handle that would allow them to stand up straight; but, as an elderly lady told us in recent days with a smile full of irony, “How can you see what’s there if you don’t bend down?”

Workers could already be seen in the residential buildings, in the process of covering the gaping holes with opaque construction site tarps, while shopkeepers secured their merchandise by boarding up the windows with plywood panels using screwdrivers and hammers. According to the first press release of the regional administration, there was one dead and several wounded as a result of the attack; no further updates came during the rest of the day.

What is certain is that this was an area without any military or strategic objectives, and that accordingly there couldn’t have been any military justifications for hitting that spot. For this reason, it seems implausible that this could have been an air raid. Otherwise, the scenario would be that a bomber had deliberately aimed at a residential neighborhood just to terrorize the civilian population and cause as many deaths as possible. One should also recall that cluster bombs are particularly devastating against human targets, but practically useless against everything else, especially buildings.

These bombs maim, kill, burn, and, above all, they terrorize the population, but they have no effect on the enemy’s military defenses. In this case, it seems more likely that they were launched from Russian Grad multiple rocket launcher batteries from occupied areas.

The Grad system is unguided: after being aimed and launched, the rockets fall in an area that is more or less the intended one, but without any precision. This does not in any way mitigate the responsibility of the attackers, but it’s important to try to understand what kind of weapons the Russians are using along the southern front to try to outline their strategy.

On Tuesday, for instance, Russian Sukhoi fighters dropped incendiary bombs on Mykolayiv, while on the ground one could also hear the incessant explosions of Ukrainian mortars and anti-aircraft fire could be heard. Since it is unlikely that those planes had crossed all of Ukrainian territory in one direction or the other, it can be concluded that they didn’t come from Belarus or from the Rostov-on-Don province in the east (in Russian territory).

The planes could have taken off only from Crimea or the Black Sea, and in this regard, the sinking of the Moskva and the consequent distancing of the Russian fleet further than 200 km from land is an additional piece of the puzzle. In other words, everyone here is asking: what will Moscow’s intentions be after Mariupol falls?

While waiting to see how the situation in Mykolayiv will evolve, Kherson remains a great unknown. There are questions about whether the occupation troops will engage in a pseudo-campaign for the “independence referendum” called for April 27, and thus try to keep a lower profile with as little aggressiveness as possible, or whether they will continue to advance westward to conquer more ground. What is undeniable is the reality of the long line of buses carrying refugees from Mykolayiv to Odessa on Thursday, the Red Cross vehicles lined up before the checkpoints and the reappearance of the word “Deti” (children, n.ed.) written on the cars of families fleeing towards the west. It is extremely difficult to try to understand how war can affect the psyche of those who are forced to go through it it. However, without launching into theories that would require much more expertise, we can say that the disappearance of all security, of even the shortest-term planning, even if only about “tomorrow,” is a constant torture in every armed conflict.

It’s the same with the disappearance of everyday life, or, to put it better, that of moments of serenity. The constant tension that a situation like the one of the inhabitants of Mykolayiv or of many other Ukrainian cities brings with it would be enough to explain why war is devastating. Even without counting the dead and wounded, who can rightly be called the protagonists in the tragedy that unfolds at every step, but who are numerically in the minority.

Speaking of war scenarios, while the situation is stalling in the south, in the east the attacks and preparations continue for the elusive “great offensive” of the “new phase of the special operation,” as Moscow has called it. According to the usual British intelligence sources, this time conveyed through the words of Defense Minister Ben Wallace, “Russian troops are advancing towards Kramatorsk, the largest urban area of the Donbass under the Ukrainian flag.” As we have already written, the British have been talking for days about the imminent Russian offensive in the Donbass area and are calling the bombing of the cities in the center and north a “diversion.” The mayor of Kharkiv, Igor Terekhov, disagrees – he says that there have been dozens of deaths due to the incessant bombing over the past few days.

In the Lugansk oblast, Governor Sergiy Haidai said that “there are no more food stores left in Sievierodonetsk” and that “residents can only receive food through humanitarian aid.” Haidai also added that the towns of Rubizhne and Novodruzhsk had also suffered heavy damage in recent hours. Zaporizhzhia has also been hit again – according to the regional administration, Thursdayh’s bombings didn’t cause victims there, but several elements of the city infrastructure were rendered unusable.

Subscribe to our newsletter

Your weekly briefing of progressive news.

You have Successfully Subscribed!