Investigative Group Publishes Map Of Destroyed Civilian Targets In Ukraine

By RFE/RL's Russian Service
The open-source investigative group Bellingcat has published an interactive map of civilian facilities destroyed by Russia in the course of its invasion of Ukraine.

The map is based on video and photographic evidence documented by Bellingcat, and charts by time and place several hundred incidents that have potentially harmed or affected civilians since Russia's war in Ukraine began on February 24.

Among the incidents are "missile hits in residential areas, the destruction of civilian infrastructure, and the obvious presence of injured civilians or the motionless bodies of civilians," Bellingcat said.

The investigative group said that documenting such cases was "very important in light of the statements by the Russian authorities that they do not seek to attack civilians and avoid hitting civilian infrastructure."

The World Health Organization has said it has verified 43 attacks on hospitals and health facilities in Ukraine, resulting in the deaths of 12 people and injuries to 34.

The United Nations estimates that more than 3 million Ukrainian refugees have left the country to escape the fighting.

A Russian State Duma legislator and two aides have been charged in the United States with conspiring to violate U.S. sanctions over an alleged international foreign influence and disinformation network to advance Russian interests.

The U.S. Justice Department said an indictment unsealed in New York City on April 14 charges the legislator, Aleksandr Babakov, and two of his staff members -- Aleksandr Vorobev and Mikhail Plisyuk -- with conspiracy.

Babakov, who currently serves as deputy chairman of the State Duma, the lower house of the Russian parliament, the Justice Department said. All three men are based in Russia and remain at large.

The indictment alleges that the defendants used a nonprofit organization based in Russia -- the Institute for International Integration Studies -- as a front for the alleged foreign influence campaign.

The defendants worked to weaken U.S. partnerships with European allies, undermine Western sanctions, and promote Russia’s illicit actions designed to destroy the sovereignty of Ukraine, the Justice Department said.

They used staged events, paid propaganda, and tried to recruit least one U.S. citizen to do their bidding in unofficial capacities, the indictment says.

U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said the three are accused of orchestrating the campaign “to advance Russia’s malevolent political designs against Ukraine and other countries, including the U.S.”

The indictment “demonstrates that Russia’s illegitimate actions against Ukraine extend beyond the battlefield," Williams said.

The effort included requesting a meeting with a member of Congress to push Russia’s agenda and submitting phony visa applications under the false pretenses of a vacation when the applicants actually intended to hold meetings with U.S. political figures, the indictment said.

The specific charges include conspiracy to violate and evade U.S. sanctions, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, and conspiracy to have a U.S. citizen act as an unregistered agent on behalf of Russia without notifying the U.S. attorney general, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison.

The indictment is part of a Justice Department crackdown against Russia that includes a case against an oligarch accused of sanctions violations and a tycoon charged with illegal campaign contributions.

With reporting by AP