The school bombing in Bilhorivka
UPDATE 10 MAY: File closed.
We have been making urgent enquiries and we are unable to satisfy ourselves even on the balance of probabilities (the lower civil as opposed to criminal burden of proof) that a war crime was committed in this affair.
On 8 May 2022 there was a huge explosion in what may have been an agricultural college on the outskirts of Bilhorivka, a small village in western Luhansk oblast, Ukraine.
We have made urgent enquiries as to the veracity of the media assertion that 60 people died. We have been unable to establish that even one person died, or the name of a single dead person.
No local hospitals appear to have taken in injured people after the explosion.
No domestic war crimes investigators have attended the scene.
There is no evidence as to how the building blew up or what it was storing when it blew up.
We have offered to attend for site inspection to more than one party and our proposals were met with silence.
We respectfully remind the parties that media reports are for the most part inadmissible hearsay and not evidence of anything.
We therefore close this file, being prepared to reopen it if credible evidence subsequently came to light but reminding all parties that evidence of war crimes tends to become exponentially less persuasive as time carries on.
We are grateful to the parties who engaged with us for their cooperation.
This is a video of an apparent Russian bombing of a school in Bilhorivka today 8 May 2022, a settlement in Ukrainian-controlled Luhansk oblast in the east of Ukraine.
We are looking for corroborating evidence of the following facts and matters, for a potential war crimes investigation:
1. that this is indeed a video of Bilhorivka, a tiny farming settlement so small that it does not appear on any but any but the the most detailed Cyrillic maps; population estimated at approximately 20;
The video in the BBC shows parts of the building that have not been destroyed. The architectural style and some details are similar to those of a building described as "Bilhorivka Z O Sh", which can be seen as a pop up insert in the Google map of the village. Here is the link:
This issue therefore appears resolved. This is a school in the village of Bilhorivka that appears to be the building in the video, apparently having suffered damage from a high explosive warhead.
Here is a map of the village. It is more than 20 people,but still it is a small place.
The school appears to be on the right side of the north-south road in the centre of the image, nestled between the road and the river, in a tree-lined area, three-fifths of the way up the image, what appears to be a c-shaped grey structure, plus associated brown outhouse buildings. This would be consistent that this school was an agricultural college.
2. this is a video of a school (the building is made predominantly of wood; 60 people are said to have died; there is no way Bilhorivka would have so large a school);
Update: as per point 1 above, the destroyed building does appear to have been a school. We are investigating what kind of school might have been located in so remote a place.
3. this is not in fact a video of a burning set of farm buildings;
Update: one hypothesis is that the school was an agricultural college with both brick schoolhouses and associated wooden agricultural buildings. However this is only a hypothesis at the current time.
4. a bomb has been dropped on it (Russians have not been using bombers to a significant extent during the war);
This issue is tentatively resolved. Likely the word 'bomb' was a misnomer; more likely it was a Tochka-U short range (70-80km) tactical ballistic missile with a high explosive warhead.
Contemporary surface to air missiles render modern aircraft-based laser-guided bombing using conventional warheads dangerous. Moreover laser-guided bombs are obsolete technology, not being particularly accurate and not cost-effective in comparison with modern ballistic missiles.
However one possible hypothesis, given the extent of the damage (truly remarkable), is that this was a 'sow bomb' (i.e. a planted bomb packed with TNT, capable of a much bigger explosion than contemporary high explosive warheads on ballistic missiles.) This is only a hypothesis that we will be testing.
A principal question currently under consideration by us is the motive for the attack, which at the current time is entirely unclear.
5. the alleged death toll;
Update: it is not clear why 90 people (60 dead plus 30 who walked away) would be taking refuge in this building unless there were a proximate battle - but we have seen no evidence of one to date.
6. any surrounding buildings. The video appears to show a burning wooden building in the middle of a field;
Update: the nearest town of any size is Lysychansk, about 20km east. Lysychansk is close to the western border of the Luhansk oblast and currently under Ukrainian control; and the village is right on the border of the oblast. It is not therefore apparently particularly close to the front line.
This calls into question the motives for the attack.
7.any corroborating witnesses who can speak to the events that are described.
All assistance with this important and urgent enquiry will be greatly appreciated. In any event we will pursue our own further enquiries, and report back soon.
Evidence of events of this character is soon lost, so it is essential that anyone with information contacts us straight away.
UPDATE 9 MAY 2022
We wish to convey that in the immediate investigations we have been undertaking so far, both Ukrainian and Russians have been cooperating with our enquiries. We are extremely grateful for the sides' timely cooperation so far, which is the internationally correct response to a war crimes enquiry and both sides appear to us, so far, to be acting in that spirit. We reserve the right to draw such adverse inferences as we may consider appropriate should one or the other side cease cooperating with us in the commendable spirit we have so far experienced.
We consider it to be in the public good that events potentially (but not certainly) giving rise to internationally grave war crimes accusations should be explored initially in public, so that any interested (or disinterested) party may supply potentially relevant observations as our enquiries proceed. Hence we intend to continue to keep this webpage updated as and when we receive further information.
Nevertheless, we will respect scrupulously the anonymity of any interlocutor who expressly or impliedly seeks anonymity; the identities of such persons will never be handed over to any formal or informal authority or to any other person. There is an ample choice of communication options entailing confidentiality at www.the-paladins.com/contact and any person is free to contact us anonymously using those methods.