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Health care system under Russian occupation in Ukraine

December 18, 2023

New evidence suggests that Russian authorities have sought to target Ukraine’s health care system as a way to control the civilian population in Ukrainian territories under occupation.

Damaged Kherson city Clinical Hospital named after Oleksandr Luchansky captured with the eyeWitness to Atrocities App by a user on March 28, 2023.

Photo of the Kherson city Clinical Hospital named after Oleksandr Luchansky captured with the eyeWitness to Atrocities App by a user on March 28, 2023.

A new case study, published by eyeWitness to Atrocities, Insecurity Insight, Media Initiative for Human Rights (MIHR), and Physicians for Human Rights (PHR), reveals ways in which Russian authorities have reportedly sought to target Ukraine’s health care system as a means of enforcing control over the civilian population in Russian-occupied territories.

“Coercion and Control: Ukraine’s Health Care System Under Russian Occupation”, highlights data suggesting that Russia’s actions have compromised civilians’ right to health and imperilled access to essential health services. Specifically, covering data collected from the start of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine through September 2023, the case study suggests that Russian forces have reportedly:

  • misused health facilities for non-medical purposes, with at least 16 reported incidents where a health facility was used as a military base, to store weapons, or to otherwise plan military action;
  • forced changes of nationality (also known as “passportization”) of population through medical services in at least 15 reported incidents;
  • threatened and harassed health care personnel, including by reportedly detaining at least 68 health care workers in 17 separate incidents.


In detailing these incidents, the case study also identifies some of their potential implications under both international humanitarian law and international human rights law.

“The case study highlights reports of challenging conditions faced by civilians and health care workers in Russian-occupied territories. The reported incidents are deeply concerning, and underscore the urgent need for thorough investigation by prosecutors,” said Carrie Bowker, director at eyeWitness to Atrocities.

Ukraine's Prosecutor General, Andriy Kostin, has made the following statement regarding the case study:


This case study builds on a February 2023 report from eyeWitness to Atrocities, Insecurity Insight, MIHR, PHR, and the Ukrainian Healthcare Center that documented extensive attacks perpetrated against Ukraine’s hospitals, health care workers, and other medical infrastructure since February 2022. The report demonstrated how Russian forces appeared to be targeting Ukraine’s health care system as part of a broader attack on its civilian population and infrastructure. It established a reasonable basis to believe that these attacks constitute war crimes and potentially crimes against humanity as well.

Read the full case study below in English below and in Ukrainian here.

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