KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — U.N investigators on Tuesday urged Russia to acknowledge responsibility for a missile strike on a Ukrainian village that killed 59 civilians, conduct a transparent investigation into what happened, provide reparations for victims and hold those responsible to account.
The strike on a cafe in the village of Hroza on Oct. 5 was one of the deadliest strikes since the Kremlin’s forces launched a full-scale invasion 20 months ago. Whole families perished while attending a wake for a local soldier who died fighting Russian troops. The blast killed 36 women, 22 men and an 8-year-old boy. Numerous bodies were found torn to pieces, and it took nearly a week to identify all the dead.
The U.N. Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine said in a report published Tuesday it “has reasonable grounds to believe” that a Russian Iskander missile — a short-range precision-guided ballistic weapon — probably caused the blast in Hroza.
The extensive damage and weapon debris at the scene led investigators to that conclusion, the report said.
It said that Russia “either failed to undertake all feasible measures to verify that the intended target was a military objective rather than civilians or civilian objects, or deliberately targeted civilians or a civilian object.”
Either of those explanations amounts to a violation of international humanitarian law, the report said.
The incident “serves as a stark reminder of the human cost of the war in Ukraine and underscores the necessity of holding perpetrators accountable,” Danielle Bell, head of the U.N. mission in Ukraine, said in a statement.
The Kremlin did not directly address the strike in Hroza at the time, but continued to insist that it aims only at legitimate military targets in Ukraine.
Russia’s U.N. ambassador, however, told the U.N. Security Council, that “a high-ranking Ukrainian nationalist” and “a lot of neo-Nazi accomplices” were at the wake.
Neither Moscow nor Kyiv officials made any immediate comment on Tuesday’s report.
Repeated civilian deaths have weakened Russia’s claim that it doesn’t target civilians.
Ukraine’s presidential office said early Tuesday that one civilian was killed and at least 17 others were injured over the previous 24 hours.
The death was a woman visiting a cemetery and among the injured were five people traveling on a bus, it said.