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Where did the shells come from? The shelling of Stanytsia Luhanska Village, hitting the “Kazka” Kindergarten No 21 building on February 17, 2022

Where did the shells come from? The shelling of Stanytsia Luhanska Village, hitting the “Kazka” Kindergarten No 21 building on February 17, 2022

On February 17, 2022, around 09:00 a.m. local time, an artillery shell hit a kindergarten building during the shelling of Stanytsia Luhanska, creating a hole in a wall behind which a gym was situated. [1]

Localisation of the impact site

Serhii Haidai, head of the civil-military administration of Luhansk Oblast, said: “As a result of heavy artillery, the shell hit a kindergarten building at 22 Depovska Street. Those injured in the explosion include a guard, an assistant educator, a laundress. They suffered from blast injuries, barotrauma, hypertensive crisis. Everyone has the same diagnosis.” [2] At the same time, several Russian and separatist sources claimed that the kindergarten was located on the territory controlled by the so-called “Luhansk People’s Republic” (LNR), accusing the artillery of the Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU) of being responsible for the shelling.
If you believe the first message given here, note that “Kazka” Kindergarten No 21 is located at 22 Depovska Street, Stanytsia Luhanska. The precise coordinates are 48.673889°, 39.451235°. To confirm the location of the kindergarten building, we compared images taken at the scene of the incident on the day of the shelling – which appeared in both Ukrainian and Russian sources – with satellite images of the location of “Kazka” Kindergarten.

For comparative analysis, we have marked the objects that can be identified in both images from the scene and satellite images.

The green circle marks the trees next to the building, which can be identified in both sets of photos.
The blue circle marks the design features of the building itself; the attic window in the front, ventilation outlets, and a fence roof on the rear facade. The red circle marks the outbuildings next to the main building of the kindergarten and the windows on the first floor, the number and location of which match the satellite image precisely.
Thus, in conclusion we confirm that it was in fact “Kazka” Kindergarten, in Stanytsia Luhanska, on the territory controlled by the Government of Ukraine, that was attacked.

Investigating the direction and distance of the attack

Examining the images of the damage, we can conclude that the projectile hit the lower corner of the rear facade of the building, [3] which faces southeast. The perpendicular azimuth of the facade is about 135°.
The main facade of “Kazka” Kindergarten No21 is structurally different from the rear side of the building, in particular: the location and number of windows on the first floor, the existence of two entrances to the building, and the presence of flower beds.

The angle of explosion of the bomb which caused the destruction of the kindergarten building is almost 90° to the facade and the most probable direction of fire is an azimuth 128-131° to the southeast.

The fragments of the bomb used in the shelling of the kindergarten have a certain resemblance to the RGM-2M detonator, with which 122mm and 152mm artillery shells are equipped. Such equipment is used by both the Armed Forces of Ukraine and illegal armed formations of the so-called “LNR” and “Donetsk People’s Republic”. [4] It is virtually impossible to determine the calibre of the projectile used in the shelling from the hole in the wall.

It is significant to mention that there are no combat positions and no units of the Armed Forces of Ukraine located near “Kazka” Kindergarten No21. The nearest battle positions are located southwest of the kindergarten, at a distance of almost 2 km.

Based on the probable azimuth (128-131°) and the distance from the kindergarten building to the demarcation line (14.5 km), there is a theoretical possibility that the shot was fired from a cannon of the Armed Forces of Ukraine near the village of Bolotene. However, this possibility cannot be considered seriously, as it would be impossible to move the artillery unit directly to the demarcation line during the day, let alone fire from it over a long period. Such a position would be quickly destroyed by fire from the well-fortified deployment of “LNR” forces on the opposite high bank of the Siverskyi Donets River.
As for the admissibility of such a shelling under international humanitarian law, based on currently available  information, it can be argued that there are objective grounds to consider such a shelling illegal.

The attack was either deliberately targeted at civilian objects (in the case that further investigation reveals that other munitions hit civilian targets at a considerable distance from military objects) or was an indiscriminate attack that took no account of the possibility of hitting civilian objects and paid no regard to the principle of proportionality (which requires that the military superiority that a party of conflict seeks to gain, be weighed against possible damage to civilian objects, especially those as important as educational institutions).

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