Russia has been accused of using widely-banned munitions in attacks that have killed and injured hundreds of civilians in the northeast of Ukraine and showing an "utter disregard for civilian lives". 

An Amnesty International investigation into attacks on Kharkiv revealed people have been killed using 9N210/9N235 cluster bombs in residential areas including playgrounds and cemeteries. 

Cluster munitions detonate in the air and release smaller bombs which fall indiscriminately over a vast area. They are banned under the Convention on Cluster Munitions and the Convention on Anti-Personnel Mines. 

While Russia is not a party to either convention, launching indiscriminate attacks resulting in death or injury to civilians, or damage to civilian objects, constitutes war crimes. 

"The people of Kharkiv have faced a relentless barrage of indiscriminate attacks in recent months, which killed and injured hundreds of civilians” said Donatella Rovera, Amnesty International’s Senior Crisis Response Adviser.

“People have been killed in their homes and in the streets, in playgrounds and in cemeteries, while queueing for humanitarian aid, or shopping for food and medicine.

“The repeated use of widely banned cluster munitions is shocking, and a further indication of utter disregard for civilian lives. The Russian forces responsible for these horrific attacks must be held accountable for their actions, and victims and their families must receive full reparations.”

A total of 606 civilians have been killed in Kharkiv since Russia invaded Ukraine in February of this year. A further 1248 have been injured, the director of the Medical Department at the Kharkiv Regional Military Administration revealed. 

Residential neighbourhoods in the northern and eastern parts of the city have undergone the brunt of the shelling.

Amnesty International investigated 41 strikes carried out in the region over 14 days in April and May, published in a report ‘Anyone can die at any time’: Indiscriminate attacks by Russian forces in Kharkiv, Ukraine,

On April 15, Russia fired cluster munitions around Myru Street, in the Industrialni neighbourhood which killed at least nine people and injured more than 35, including a number of children. 

The munitions caused devastating damage and hit a nearby playground where many families were enjoying their afternoon. 

Oksana Litvynyenko, 41, suffered devastating injuries when several cluster munitions exploded while she was walking with her husband Ivan and their four-year-old daughter.

Shrapnel penetrated her back, chest and abdomen, puncturing her lungs and spine.

Ivan told Amnesty International: “All of a sudden, I saw a flash… I grabbed my daughter and pushed her against the tree and hugged the tree, so that she was protected between the tree and my body.

"There was a lot of smoke, and I couldn’t see anything…

"Then as the smoke around me eased, I saw people on the ground… my wife Oksana was lying on the ground. When my daughter saw her Mum on the ground in a pool of blood, she said to me, ‘Let’s go home: Mum is dead and the people are dead’. She was in shock and so was I.

"I still don’t know whether my wife will recover; the doctors cannot say if she will be able to speak or walk again. Our world has been turned upside down.”

The woman was in intensive care for two months until she died of complications on Sunday, the BBC reports.

Distinctive fins and metal pellets from 9N210/9N235 cluster munitions were found at the playground.

In another incident on March 24, cluster munitions struck nearby the Akademika Pavlova metro station where hundreds of people were queuing for humanitarian aid.

The attack killed at least six people and injured 15. 

Valeriia Kolyshkina, a sales assistant in a pet shop close to the scene of the strike, said that one man was killed when the explosions destroyed the glass front of a nearby store.

She told Amnesty International: “A man was killed just outside the shop. He was standing outside smoking while his wife was buying pet food.

"Metal shrapnel came through the front window, flying over my head as I was behind the counter. Then there were several more explosions.

"It was utter panic. The shop was full of people. We ran to the storage room at the back of the shop for protection. It was very scary. thought I would die.”

Around the area, researchers found fins and fragments from the 9N210/9N235 cluster munitions, and multiple other craters. Amnesty International also found parts of a 220mm Uragan rocket, which carries 30 submunitions, still embedded in a crater in the tarmac. 

Unguided rockets – such as Grads and Uragans, which have been routinely used by Russian forces – are inherently inaccurate, making them indiscriminate when used in populated areas, the report adds. 

One woman, Olena Sorokina, 57, told of losing both her legs after a cluster bomb exploded in the Saltivka neighbourhood on April 26. 

The cancer survivor wass sitting outside her building waiting for a delivery of humanitarian aid when she heard the sound of a flying shell and ran to the entrance of the building.

Ms Sorokina said: "After the battle with cancer, now I have to face another battle to learn to function without legs.”