Over the last few weeks we’ve seen the OSCE reporting damage to several schools in occupied Ukraine. Damage caused by bullets. Yesterday the OSCE reported two had been hit. One in Donetsk city and another in the small town of Holmivskyi, 49km east of Donetsk city.
Now, schools damaged by firing in eastern Ukraine is sadly nothing new. Since 2014, humanitarian agencies report 750 have been hit, with many closed due to damage by shelling. Much of the damage was sustained during Russia’s initial invasion in 2014/15 when there was widespread use of heavy artillery fire and a fluctuating front line. Today schools still get hit by artillery and stray bullets, but on a far lesser scale.
So, it’s a little suspicious, that over the last month in occupied Ukraine, several schools have been hit.
Below is the OSCE report for March 22nd.
So what’s the Issue here?
Inside occupied Ukraine, both hospital and school staff have been ordered by Russian military (armed formations), not to talk to the OSCE. As detailed in the above OSCE report, school staff will say when damage is alleged to have been sustained, but wont answer further questions, or allow OSCE monitors access to schools. With no access to school premises, the OSCE can’t confirm “the direction of fire” or the weapon used.
With the OSCE publishing daily reports of damage to buildings and civilians casualties, it’s extremely suspicious why Russia’s puppet authorities in occupied Ukraine don’t help the OSCE get the facts right. Why don’t they want the OSCE to report all the details of alleged Ukrainian firing on schools?
So, let us take a look at the schools referenced in the above OSCE report.
The school in Donetsk city.
Using the OSCE referenced street number of 1 Samarska Street in the Petrovskyi district of Donetsk city, we can find the school on Google Earth. The OSCE report the bullet hole on the north-west facing side of the school. Coordinates – 47 56 50.87 N 37 33 59.92 E
Note this school was fired on when children were in attendance.
As seen below (yellow square), the school is surrounded by trees and a large number of houses and buildings. In addition on its north-west side, there are several large mine slag heaps and tall industrial buildings.
Below we see the school with progressively ever larger mine slag heaps (red squares) screening much of its north-west side. All these are under the control of Russia’s forces. The blue square marks an industrial complex with taller buildings which further masks the north-west side. The firing down on the school would be possible from several of these locations.
Seen in the bottom left of the below image, Ukrainian forces hold the village of Marinka. Their positions are at least 2km from the school and further from the north-west side. As well as the large slag heap and its accompanying mine buildings (below in red box) and the tall industrial buildings (above in blue box), there are also several hundred houses and countless trees blocking the schools north-west side from Ukrainian positions.
There is no clear line of fire to the school from Ukrainian positions.
A wider view of the area.
In short, it would be extremely unlikely that any Ukrainian machine gun fire could have reached and hit the school. And it’s impossible for any machine gun fire to have been deliberately targeted at the school. It should be noted that everyday Russia’s forces fire on Ukrainian held territory. In return, Ukrainian forces usually respond with suppressing fire.
Update: The Ukrainian military report the distance from their extreme north-west positions to the school is 3,450m or 3.45km. This distance they say is beyond the range of their heavy machine guns. Likewise they mention the sheer volume of structures blocking any direct firing on the school. Below their map shows the area with distances shown. Red line marks their front line positions.
The school in Holmivskyi.
Here the OSCE report damage to a window on the schools north side. Once again the OSCE was denied access to the school. To find the correct location I’ve used Google Earth and matched this up with an image used by Russia’s forces in Donetsk.
Coordinates – 48 24 8.15 N 38 5’29 43 E
On its north side, the image below shows us the school is screened by trees, buildings and several large/tall mine buildings. These mine buildings are on a hill (top of image) partially overlooking the village. From the other side, the hill fully screens the village from Ukrainian positions.
Looking down on the village & school. The mine and its buildings are seen to the north in the top of image.
Looking east: below is a side view of the school and mine. Held by Russia’s forces, the mine (on left) is on a hill. Red boxes denote several large buildings and chimneys from where someone could fire down on the school. Although not high from the village side, the hill totally blocks out the view of the village from Ukrainian positions in the north.
Another VERY good reason for believing Russia’s forces in Ukraine are shooting at schools, is because they reported on this incident. It’s revealing how Russia’s forces in Ukraine and its paid propagandist like Patrick Lancaster can post pictures and report on this, but yet the OSCE is denied access to the school, the bullets, and the ability to analyse the bullet holes etc.
One of the tall mine chimneys (small red square) seen in the above image, looks to be peeking out from behind the houses in the below picture. The taller mine buildings (above largest red square) are just to the right of the houses seen outside the window, so can’t be seen in the below photo. Using Google Earth at the school, if you scroll down to ground level, some of the mine area does overlook the school.
Below is the video posted by Patrick Lancaster. From the US, he’s been working for Russia’s propaganda machine since 2014/15. Previously he was Graham Phillips camera man. Like Phillips, who thinks it’s fun to loot dead Ukrainian soldiers, Lancaster also laughingly claims to be “independent.” He lives illegally in occupied eastern Ukraine. That’s illegally in the sense he has not sought permission to live in Ukraine and would never get it. Lancaster has only ever promoted Russia’s propaganda against Ukraine and its army. Hence when he reports anything, it’s a safe bet it’s fake news.
Hugging Russia-led soldiers in eastern Ukraine. Patrick Lancaster is second from left and wearing pro-Russian insignia on his military jacket. Graham Phillips is fourth from left.
Lancaster’s video. Note he says “another school hit.”
My matching up the above school photo with Google Earth. Orange – Houses. Red – sheds and light blue – tyres and fence. The rows of tall popular trees can be seen behind the orange building. Image shows two bullet holes in a window.
Below I’ve enlarged the image of the damaged window.
We can see two bullets holes in the glass. If the OSCE had been allowed access to the school, using the bullet holes, they would have been able to determine the exact direction of fire. From the picture we can’t see whether the fire was from straight ahead, or from an angle towards the mine buildings.
North of Holmivskyi, Ukraine holds Travneve village. Ukrainian front line positions are approx 2.5km from the school.
There is no clear line of fire to the school from Ukrainian positions.
Seen below is Travneve. Across the water and up a steep hill is the mine (top of image). Holmivskyi can just be seen behind it. If I had zoomed down to ground level on Google Earth, Holmivskyi would be impossible to see from Travneve and Ukrainian positions.
Update: The Ukrainian military report the distance from their positions in Travneve to the school is over 2,200m or 2.2km. The blue line marks a line from their positions to the side of the school supposedly hit. As I’ve mentioned, at the bottom of the image they also show the steep angle of the hill which Ukrainian forces would have to fire up.
So there you have it.
Two schools in Russian occupied Ukraine hit by machine gun fire. Both overlooked by Russian held territory. Both screened by large numbers of trees, buildings, mines, large slag heaps, tall buildings and a hill. For both schools there is no clear line of fire from Ukrainian positions. And the OSCE were denied admission to both schools.
Now, the Ukrainian military report one of the schools is out of range of their machine guns and notes the impossibility of hitting the second. Could they have been hit by fluky million to one, stray Ukrainian fire? Fire aimed at Russian front line positions which had been firing at them. It’s extremely doubtful.
And why were the OSCE stopped from accessing the schools? Why does Russia’s propaganda publish pictures of the alleged damage and bullets which they’d stopped the OSCE from seeing? To me this has all the sickening hallmarks of the Kremlin’s on-going propaganda orchestrated to malign the Ukrainian army. Propaganda where Russia’s soldiers are more than happy to fire on schools full of Ukrainian children.