a bombing shakes the country every 36 minutes

What data can be analyzed when a war breaks out? The number of fightingits magnitude, the victims of each crash or the number of refugees who have left the country. Any conflict can result in data that almost always ends up recorded in military reports or intelligence documents. But the Russian invasion of Ukraine is on track to become the first major conflict in which the civilians themselves are contributing to the monitoring of what is happening on the terrain.

The sides avoid talking about their own casualties, but videos, photos and posts on social networks, or geolocated news on platforms such as Liveuamapthey are serving to make near real-time reconstructions of the conflictlike the one shown on the following map, which records the military actions day by day from the beginning of the invasion of Russia until March 25.

This visualization has been made with the data collected by the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED), an American organization that has been collecting and analyzing data on the conflict in Ukraine since 2018.

The sources they use have multiplied by two since the outbreak of the war, explains one of those responsible for the project to DatosRTVE. A circumstance that forces them to be much more exhaustive in verifying the sources before locating the attacks, defining who is responsible and accounting for the number of casualties.

The information is constantly updated. The number of civilian and military deaths in Ukraine is particularly difficult to track at the moment and the count may be behind schedule, ACLED warns. It is more than likely that the real number will never be known. However, his work and that of other sources allows us to reconstruct in some detail some of the clashes in the first month of the war in Ukraine.

The data offensive

After the explosion of violence on February 24, March 14 is the day in which more combats have been confirmed throughout the country, with a total of 52 confrontations (without taking into account the magnitude or the number of victims caused by them). March 24 has been the day with the most bombings to date: 70 attacks of different scope. Ukrainians have been subjected to an average of 40 aerial or ground bombardments per day, which on average is equivalent to one bombardment every 36 minutesattacks that have been concentrated mainly in the east of the country.

The latest data places the epicenter of the fighting in the cities of Mariupol, to the south, and in kyiv. The port city of Donetsk province, a strategic point for Russia, has been reduced to rubble. In the capital, the Russian forces have not managed to enter and the fighting is concentrated in the municipalities that surround it to the east and west. A metropolitan area in which Ukraine has recaptured the city of Irpin in recent daysalthough his matches are not yet included in the ACLED database.

The busiest period in the oblast (province) of Donetsk It has been recorded between March 7 and 9. 32 battles have been fought and there are 45 confirmed attacks, according to provisional data provided by ACLED. Among the clashes of those days, a bombardment by Russian aviation on Mir Boulevard and Torgovaya Street stands out, of which the number of victims is still unknown.

Around Kyiv, the fighting intensified between March 4 and 14. Of all of them, the clash between armies in Hostomel stands out. Ukrainian territorial defenses also intervened in the clashes for control of the capital’s airport, resulting in the death of fifty Russian soldiers in two days.

Where the main battles have taken place

Luganskwith an average of eight offensives a day, and Kharkiv, with six, are the following regions where more clashes have occurred. But the most violent battle to date was fought in Chernigova strategic territory in the advance towards kyiv, around March 2.

Ukrainian and Russian forces clashed near the villages of Pamiatne and Khoroshe Ozero, in the same territory where the Battle of Kruty took place during the Soviet-Ukrainian war from the beginning of the last century. Ukraine claims it heavily damaged Russian forces, and reports from local residents say the fighting left at least 200 dead.

Also noteworthy are the battles in the first weeks of the war, such as the one that took place on March 14 in Mariupol -settled with 150 deaths and a dozen armored vehicles lost-; or that of March 8 in Vovchansk (Kharkiv)where Ukrainian forces clashed with 120 Russian paratroopers.

Other reports report the shooting down of four Russian planes, 70 dead and 300 wounded in the fighting outside Mykolaiv the first weekend of March, or the bloody fight for control of Schastiain the Lugansk oblast, during the second day of the conflict.

Offensive Initiative

The information collected by ACLED also allows knowing who has had the initiative of the attacks, a balance has almost always opted for the side of Moscow. On March 14, the day of the aforementioned battle in Mariupol, Moscow led nine out of ten clashes that took place in the country.

However, Ukraine has also launched the offensive on specific days: The Ukrainian Army or its related factions have led more than half of the clashes that took place on the first day of March. AND led a series of operations between March 8 and 10 in kyiv, Kharkov, Sumy, Donetsk, Mykolaiv, Zaporizhia and Poltava.

away from the ground, Russia has launched the most attacks from a distance, with aerial bombardments, rockets, missiles, and other operations. The days of greatest intensity in this sense were March 13 and 21. In the first case, Russia precipitated its offensive on 46 locations across the country, while a week ago it led clashes in kyiv, Kharkov, Sumy, Chernigov, Donetsk, Lugansk, Zaporizhia, Mykolaiv, Rivne, Dnipropetrovsk and Odessa.

The bloodiest attack to date on a military target was recorded on February 28 in the Sumy oblast, in northeastern Ukraine. The Zelensky government accused the Russian Army of exploding a thermobaric bomb on the barracks of the Ukrainian forces in the town of Okhtirka. It is estimated that 70 soldiers died.

Victims and human rights

Beyond the military movements, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has counted the death of almost 1,200 civilians -including 91 minors- and more than 1,900 wounded so far in the contest, although he warns that the figures could be much higher.

For the OHCHR, these data confirm the “serious deterioration of human rights in the country” and indicate that “serious violations” of both international humanitarian law and international human rights law are taking place.

The report issued by the office led by Michelle Bachelelt highlights that neither the principles of distinction nor the prohibition of indiscriminate attacks are being respectedwith “hundreds of residential buildings, hospitals, schools, day care centers and other civilian targets damaged or destroyed” by the bombs.

The High Commissioner denounces the conduct of the Russian forces, “characterized by the widespread use of wide-range explosives in populated areasincluding heavy artillery shelling and multiple launches of rockets, missiles and air strikes”. But, at the same time, he warns of the existence of allegations that the Ukrainian Armed Forces have participated in similar shelling in the territory of Donetsk and Lugansk, controlled by factions related to Moscow.

What are these data for?

“Understanding, monitoring and ultimately mitigating the threat of violence.” These are the goals for which the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED) works to create a database of conflicts in near real time. A resource used by government agencies from the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and some European countries; international organizations, such as the World Bank, United Nations or NATO; and non-governmental organizations, which use it to define military and political strategies or to guarantee the security of the movement and shipment of material by humanitarian organizations.

Unfortunately, this type of information not by itself to detect war crimes, human rights violations or abuses by the security forces. But its combination with subsequent investigations and audiovisual material collected by other sources has already been used to bring those responsible for these crimes to justice.

This is what groups like Bellingcat do, which is documenting incidents that harm or impact the civilian population. A video and photo verification task involving everyone from Ukrainian speakers to people capable of locating an event geographically and chronologically. Its main objective is to identify events for which there are open source evidence.

“Documenting these incidents is important because the Russian government has stated that it does not try to attack citizens and that it avoids damaging civilian infrastructure,” the group said in an article on its website. Among the sources they use are photographs and videos published on social networks that are reviewed to verify their originality and the absence of manipulation.

Being able to work remotely is “particularly important in situations where it is dangerous for researchers to be on the ground“, adds the NGO Amnesty International. Its verification department, the Crisis Evidence Lab, has already documented 11 possible human rights violations in the war in Ukraine. A fundamental job when disinformation and hoaxes are one more face of the war .


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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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