On September 4, Russia’s top state media editor Margarita Simonyan said on TV that the Ukraine war could not end until that “lesser human” nation is “crushed to the end.”
Ukrainian children should be given to good Russian families, she said, so they could be raised as “human beings.”
“Thank God we are different … We do not allow ourselves to carpet bomb Ukrainian cities. Why? Because we couldn’t? We could have, easily. I am proud that we don’t allow ourselves that.”
That is misleading. In fact, Russia has been widely accused of indiscriminate bombing, or deliberately hitting civilian targets.
To cite the most recent example, Russian rockets hit the country’s second-biggest heat and power plant in Kharkiv on September 12, apparently in retaliation after Ukrainian forces recaptured the key city in a sweeping offensive operation.
Indiscriminate bombing of civilian targets has arguably been a signature Russian tactic, one that Moscow used in its war on Chechnya in 1990s and early 2000s and the Syrian civil war. A United Nations team accused the Russian air force of war crimes in Syria.
The term “carpet bombing” dates back to the Second World War practice of “saturation bombing,” or dropping massive quantities of ordnance across a wide area to cause overwhelming devastation and terror.
Whether the term fits Russia’s combination of bombing, artillery fire and rocket attacks in Ukraine is debatable. But there’s no disputing that Russia has inflicted widespread damage on residences, medical facilities, schools and other civilian infrastructure, killing and wounding thousands of noncombatants.
“Russian bombers just carpet-bombed Mariupol,” Forbes reported on April 15.
Russian jets dropped unguided bombs on the besieged city, where more than 160,000 civilians were trapped in dire conditions, Forbes said. A single bomb attack on a Mariupol theater being used a shelter is believed to have killed 600 people.
The U.K.’s Guardian newspaper reported that satellite images showed “devastated residential building, blasted park lands and smoldering grocery stores.” The photos showed blocks-long swaths of burned-out buildings and homes.
The International Red Cross called conditions in Mariupol “apocalyptic.” Ukrainian officials claimed that Russian bombing had destroyed 95% of the city, still under Russian control, and estimated that about 22,000 civilians were killed.
The United Nations said 90% of Mariupol’s residential buildings were destroyed or damaged and that it had confirmed 1,348 civilian deaths, a toll likely to be thousands short of the actual one.
Russian bombs obliterated the southern town of Popasna to such a degree that Russian occupation authorities decided not to rebuild. Videos from Russian drones showed troops rounding up prisoners amid battered homes, shredded trees and debris from explosions that looked like the aftermath of a tornado.
In April, Russia used ballistic missiles to strike the main train station in Kramatorsk, where more than 4,000 civilians were awaiting evacuation to safety. More than 50 people were killed and nearly 100 injured in that attack.
The governor of Ukraine’s Donetsk province, Pavlo Kyrylenko, said in April that Russia had used cluster bombs “to kill as many civilians as possible and to sow panic and fear,” The Guardian reported.
The Cluster Munition Coalition, a civil society watchdog group and Human Rights Watch have accused both Russia and Ukraine of using cluster bombs, which release scores of bomblets across a wide area, each capable killing or maiming if triggered. (Both Ukraine and Russia deny using cluster bombs.)
Western warfare experts compare Russia’s bombing of Ukraine with tactics during the two wars in Chechnya and Syria.
Here’s how The National Interest described the battle for the Chechen capital Grozny in 1994:
“… [T]he most intense bombing campaign in Europe since 1945. Not known for their precision, BM-27 Uragan and BM-21 Grad rocket launchers failed to effectively neutralize Chechen combatants--they did, however, level large swathes of the city while killing thousands of civilians. Russian troops finally took Grozny on the heels of around 25,000-35,000 civilian casualties…”
Analysts at the U.S. think-tank RAND Corp. said in a March 28 commentary that Russia did the same in Aleppo in 2015 on behalf of Syrian dictator Bashar Assad:
“Following the play book in Chechnya, Russia used TU-22M Backfire medium bombers to conduct ‘carpet bombing’ of Aleppo. Salafi jihadist and other anti-Assad rebels had no air defenses. Even though such bombardment may be an international war crime, it helped quell the anti-Assad insurgency. Over one million Syrians were driven north into eastern Turkey. From there many moved en masse to Europe, helping to destabilize the political equilibrium of some European states, including Hungary and Germany. Moscow scored a geostrategic win.”