May 13 shelling destroys home, killing members of internally displaced family
Four civilians were killed and one wounded when a 122mm BM-21 MLRS Grad artillery projectile hit a house in government-controlled Avdiivka on the evening of May 13. The weapon was fired from non-government-controlled Spartak, in the Donetsk Oblast. Two young children have been left orphaned as a result of the incident.
Below, we can see the location of the destroyed home, along with the direction of fire from separatist-controlled Spartak. The red-shaded area on the map signifies territory controlled by Russian and separatist forces.
The OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) to Ukraine assessed the damage to be from 122mm artillery fired from a southerly direction, supporting the Ukrainian Armed Forces’ claim that the projectiles were fired from non-government-controlled areas. The SMM observed “fresh impact on the roof, a hole in the south-facing wall, broken windows and door,” and confirmed reports that four civilians died, and one was wounded.
As DFRLab has frequently reported, Avdiivka is an extremely active hotspot in the conflict in eastern Ukraine with high levels of kinetic activity recorded daily. Despite the frequent fighting, this particular incident had tremendous resonance with the residents of Avdiivka, as the rallying efforts in local social network groups show us.
On the “Avdiivka — my homeland!” group on the Russian-language social network Vkontakte (VK), a post with over 20,000 views provides information on how to donate money to the two young children orphaned by the shelling attack.
In another post on the Avdiivka VK group, a woman named Alena Tretyakova asked online readers to help raise money to allow a teenage boy who was orphaned by the attack to attend his parents’ funeral. The post gathered over 15,000 views, and while Alena has not revealed if the young man was able to go to the funeral, the fundraising campaign was likely successful, as Alena posted screenshots of the numerous small donations that came in.
It should be noted that per a presidential decree, Vkontakte — along with other Russian sites, including social network Odnoklassniki (OK) and search giant Yandex — are to be blocked in Ukraine. Going forward, civilians on the front line will either need to use a VPN service to access VK and the local communities within, or migrate to another social network that is currently rarely used in the Donbas, such as Facebook. Ukrainian authorities have said that VK, along with other Russian sites banned in this decree, pose “activities [that] threaten the information and cyber security of Ukraine.” The founder of Vkontakte, Pavel Durov, famously left the company after a dispute with Kremlin-linked owners, saying that continuing to work at VK would pose a danger to the “principles on which our social network is based.”
This story is particularly tragic due to the fact that the family killed in the shelling were internally displaced persons (IDPs), and they were coming in “from Kyiv, the first time in three years, to check out their home.” Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko skipped the Eurovision final after hearing about the incident, calling it “the price Ukrainians pay for Russian aggression.” The press secretary for the Prosecutor General of Ukraine called the shelling an act of terrorism.
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