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Hospitals Bombed and Apartments Destroyed: Mapping Incidents of Civilian Harm in Ukraine

In the central Ukrainian city of Uman, a bloodied body lies lifeless in the street. It’s February 24, and Russia’s invasion of its neighbour has just begun. Debris is strewn across the road and the windows of nearby cars have been shattered. CCTV footage from a nearby shop shows a huge explosion took place here at just after 7am local time. A crater, clearly visible in social media video, appears to confirm a rocket was the cause of the explosion, taking the life of the individual lying motionless nearby.

Two days later in Melitopol, a camera is pointed at the front of a hospital in the centre of the city. The rapid patter of gunfire can be heard as the shaky footage focuses on what is described as the hospital’s oncology department. A number of unidentified munitions strike the building leading to several small explosions. The camera pans around and a giant red cross that adorns the hospital entrance is visible. This menacing and chaotic scene is captured by an individual standing outside residential apartment blocks that look on to the facility.

Bellingcat has been documenting and logging incidents such as these – which have been posted to social media channels – and others that appear to depict incidents of civilian impact or harm since the beginning of the conflict.

Rescuers carry a wounded person on the stretcher as they respond to shelling in central Kharkiv, northeastern Ukraine, on March 1, 2022. (Photo by Vyacheslav Madiyevskyy/Ukrinform/NurPhoto)

Some detail incidents of extreme violence as they take place while others appear to show the aftermath of missile strikes or shootings. With more videos and images coming to light each day, Bellingcat and members of its Global Authentication Project have begun to log and map these incidents on an interactive TimeMap.

You can explore the interactive TimeMap by clicking here to see its full screen format.

The Global Authentication Project consists of a community of open source researchers assisting in Bellingcat research through structured tasks and feedback. For this dataset, we are working with many individuals who have Ukrainian language skills and others with local contextual knowledge of the events and places seen on the map. Other participants include individuals skilled in geolocation and chronolocation, with all contributions being vetted by Bellingcat researchers.

The aim of this project is to detail incidents where there is open source evidence of potential civilian harm in Ukraine, as well as attempting to clarify where and when such events took place. Documenting these incidents is important given claims by the Russian government in particular that it is not seeking to attack civilians and avoid impacting civilian infrastructure.

Readers are invited to explore the map by date and location. It must be noted that only events that have been pictured, captured on video or posted to social media are included in Bellingcat’s dataset. It is likely that there will be many other instances of civilian harm that are not documented on video or on social media and therefore not included in the TimeMap.

Even accounting for that caveat, the number of incidents detailed in our dataset and TimeMap at time of initial publication is already significant.

We will continue to update our dataset and the TimeMap as the conflict progresses. The map will also remain online after the conflict ends.

How Does the TimeMap Work? Each dot on the map represents an incident of civilian damage or harm and the location where that incident took place. By clicking on a dot, readers will be presented with information about an incident, often including one or more embedded links to footage or images depicting what happened.

A screen grab of the TimeMap showing a selected incident. As the footage within selected events has been embedded from social media posts, any views that may be contained within them are not those of Bellingcat or our partners. It is also important to note that any claims within the posts have not necessarily been confirmed or verified by Bellingcat. This is particularly the case in relation to posts that state which party may have been responsible for the incidents detailed. The accompanying description simply details the elements that are objectively observable in the footage.

As described in the methodology section that follows, if a user removes the embedded footage from social media it will no longer be visible in the TimeMap format. However, the incident and its description will remain on the TimeMap. A copy of each post will also be archived should they be relevant for any justice and accountability process that may arise in the future (again, these archived posts will not be displayed publicly).

A screen grab of the TimeMap where a post has been deleted. Users can configure the timeline at the bottom of the map to hone in on incidents that took place on particular dates. By clicking on a specific day, a list of the incidents that are logged for that 24-hour-period will appear on the right hand side of the screen.

In some instances, where video or images could potentially reveal the identity or personal location of a content creator, we have taken steps to protect their privacy while still including information about the type of incident that took place.

A screen grab of the TimeMap where a source has been protected.

Users can also view incidents by week, two-week, one-month and three-month periods by clicking on those options to the right of the timeline feature at the bottom of the map. If users are interested in locating incidents in specific cities, zooming in on the target location is recommended. This provides a far more localised overview than viewing the map from the default perspective that shows the entire country of Ukraine.

A screen grab of the TimeMap focussed in on incidents that have been documented in the city of Kyiv.

Filters on the left side of the screen also allow users to search the TimeMap by specific types of incident. For example, filters allow for incidents that impacted residential, industrial, healthcare facilities, and more, to be selected. These will then appear on the map with other results filtered out.

Filters are depicted on the left hand side of the TimeMap.

If the type of munition or weapon that caused civilian harm or damage can be ascertained with a degree of confidence, this will also be listed in the incident profile. Users can use filters to search for particular types of weapons systems that may have been deployed such as cluster munitions, cruise missiles or even small arms.

More filters are depicted on the