Russian forces have been attacking Ukrainian hospitals for over a month, striking at patients, doctors, nurses, and ambulances.
Every new attack brings out louder public outcry for war crime prosecutions of Russian President Vladimir Putin and his generals, as well as top Kremlin advisors.
Prosecutors will need to prove that the attacks were not accidental or collateral damage in order to convict. The AP is tracking the emerging pattern day-by-day and it shows that there has been a relentless assault on the civil infrastructure meant to protect lives and provide safety for the most vulnerable people in Ukraine.
AP journalists in Ukraine witnessed the devastating effects of Russian strikes against civilian targets. They saw the last moments of small children whose bodies were shredded or had limbs blown off, and dozens of corpses that were piled into mass graves, including the ones of children.
Ryan Goodman, a professor of law at New York University who was previously special counsel at U.S. Department of Defense, said that "the pattern of attacks" will assist prosecutors in building the case that these were deliberate attacks. "Prosecutors can draw inferences from the number of medical facilities that were targeted, the frequency with which individual facilities were struck repeatedly, and over what time period."
Prosecutors for war crimes will most likely prioritize attacks on hospitals.
This account of attacks on medical facilities is part a larger effort by AP and PBS series Frontline, to track evidence of possible war crimes committed during one of Europe's largest conflicts since the end of World War II.
Frontline and AP launched the War Crimes Watch Ukraine project. It includes information about apparent targeted attacks and indiscriminate destruction civilian buildings and infrastructure. As long as there is conflict, the AP/Frontline online database can be maintained. This is an independent accounting of the events that excludes potentially exaggerated claims made by advocates and misinformation propagated by state-backed propaganda.
This story is part a continuing investigation by The Associated Press & Frontline, which includes the War Crimes Watch Ukraine interactive and upcoming documentary.
The AP reports contain strong visual evidence, including photos and videos. Witness accounts are also included. AP journalists from outside Ukraine confirmed other attacks by interviewing survivors. They also independently verified the authenticity of video and photo clips posted online by residents and local officials.
According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, at least 1,035 civilians including 90 children have died since the beginning of the war. Another 1,650 civilians were also wounded. These numbers are not accurate as scores of bodies lie in rubble from demolished buildings, were hurriedly buried at mass graves or occurred in areas under Russian control.
Russian officials deny hitting civilian targets and call the growing documentation of atrocities "Fake News." They also claim that there is no evidence that photos of dead or wounded civilians were taken by "crisis actors"
At talks in Turkey on a possible cease-fire, Sergey Lavrov, Russian Foreign Minister, dismissed concerns about civilian casualties and called them "pathetic shrieks" by Russia's enemies. He also denied that Ukraine had been invaded.
International laws that govern armed conflict dating back over a century prohibit military attacks on civilian populations or their property. The International Criminal Court at the Hague and Ukrainian Prosecutors are working together to collect evidence for future criminal indictments.
Karim A.A. Khan, chief ICC prosecutor, announced last month that his agency has opened an investigation following receiving referrals by 39 countries over possible evidence of war crimes in Ukraine. President Joe Biden stated that he believes Putin to be a war criminal. The United States government has also determined that Russian armed forces members have committed war crimes.