Vyacheslav Japonenko knows every turn, every pothole on the little road leading from Bezruky, his native village, to the neighboring town of Derhatchi. For years, driving his old Lada, he drove this road heading south towards Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second largest city in the northeast. But in the middle of this morning in June, this ten kilometer is undoubtedly the longest in his life. A few hours ago, a Russian artillery shell fell on his garden. That is why his sister-in-law, in the passenger seat, is covered in blood and writhing in pain. Her stomach is nothing more than a sunken wound. In the back seat, his wife Lloydmila holds her 8-year-old daughter. She is also covered in blood. Little Margarita has a head injury. And a large hole on the left side, in the exact location of the heart.
It was appalling to see these two wounded men and the Japonenko husbands in shock, without shoes and in their underwear, all covered in blood.
After what appears to be an eternity, the father of the family finally arrives at the hospital in Derhachy. “We heard screaming outside, Says Svetlana Berezna, the chief medical officer who rushed to the car with her colleagues. It was appalling to see these two wounded men and the Japonenko husbands in shock, without shoes and in their underwear, all covered in blood. » The surgeon pauses, makes a somber nod, then continues: We have been through a lot since the beginning of the war. But we’ve never seen anything like it before. It will stay with me for the rest of my life. »
Several hours after the operation, the chief physician was able to save Aunt Margarita, even if no one knew if she would be able to walk again. On the other hand, she couldn’t do anything for the little girl. “She had no chance, her injuries were very serious.”The doctor regrets. It was she who announced her death to the parents. Like many before them, they didn’t believe it. Then they saw the corpse. Margarita just celebrated her eighth birthday.
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344 Ukrainian children killed, 640 injured
And the girl is one of the 344 Ukrainian children who died, according to the prosecutor, since the beginning of the war. Six hundred and forty were injured, some of them seriously. Kharkiv region pays one of the heaviest losses with 185 casualties. It was probably a cluster bomb that killed Margarita.And accuses Alexander Kulik, a soldier of the Ukrainian army of deployment in the sector. Svetlana Berezna shares this intuition. The aunt was hit by shrapnel everywhere except for the head. Margarita, much younger, had injuries all over her body, including her skull. » This confirms, she said, the use of these weapons banned since 2010 under the international Oslo agreement.
Child abuse is a crime against humanity
This conclusion is consistent with a recent report by Amnesty International denouncing ‘indiscriminate bombing’ The Russian army in Kharkiv. Since the war broke out on February 24, it hits residential areas almost every day. But not only. Three times it also targeted the Regional Children’s Hospital, and ended up evacuating its patients to another facility, the name of which is still classified for security reasons. This is where Veronica and Stanislav, who share the same room, were moved. She is a 17-year-old girl, with a pale face and long brown hair, who has an intravenous syringe stuck in her arm. He, 12, falls asleep embracing a green and white plastic animal. Both were wounded in the bombing. For Veronica, it was just two days ago when a shell exploded near the lake where she was fishing. The shrapnel penetrated his lung. “We were taking refuge downstairs, when we realized Veronica wasn’t there, says his mother, Maria. We had to wait until he calmed down to go look for him. » According to the surgeon Yevgeny Strelets who operated on her, Veronica will have to stay at least two weeks in the hospital. He holds in his hand a piece of metal several centimeters long that he extracted from the teenager’s body.
Stanislav was in his bedroom on the first floor when the family’s house in Kharkiv was hit by a missile. He miraculously survived leaving only a few scars on his face from the explosion. The disaster is above all internal. Already, since 2014, he has been stammering, so sore from the fighting in the Donbass that he and his family had to flee. Now, not a word comes out of his mouth. He even temporarily stopped breathing and had to be put on life support.
Secret clinic for security reasons
Since February 24, 40 children have been to this secret clinic. “Only one has died so far.”, almost identifies Natalia Romanova, one of the doctors. After four months of struggle, the practitioner was not yet accustomed to the daily horror. Child abuse is a crime against humanityshe is protesting.
Young Margarita was buried in Bezrowki Cemetery. An almost idyllic place, with great wildflowers, bordered by mighty poplars. His funeral was heartbreaking, as weeping mingled with the priest’s prayer. For long minutes, her parents clung to the coffin covered with purple brocade. The staff, worried about the shells falling, had to decide to push them back. From afar, the thunder of artillery fire resounded endlessly. It was ten days ago. Since then, 20 more children have been killed in Ukraine.