Red Cross packages are lined up along the sidewalk in Serhiivka, a small town in the southwestern corner of Ukraine. A man is unloading plastic bags stamped WORLD CENTRAL KITCHEN from a truck whose front windshield has been completely shattered. On the other side of the plaza, people are sifting through used clothes provided by a Ukrainian charity. Someone points out a mother standing beside two young boys who, miraculously, were not at home the night that their apartment was destroyed. They are alive, but they have lost everything. She is holding up a pair of children’s jeans; perhaps they will fit one of her sons.
Three days earlier, on the night of July 1, Russian planes dropped three huge bombs on Serhiivka. One hit a nine-story apartment building. Another hit a recreational center and boarding house. By the time I arrived, much of the debris—concrete rubble, broken glass, burnt metal, swimming-pool tiles—had already been cleared. But the residents who remained alive, and not in a hospital, were still present, trying to figure out how to continue.
If you haven’t heard of Serhiivka, that’s not surprising. A very modest vacation community—resort is too grand a word—it sits in the Dniester River delta, alongside a lagoon that opens up into the Black Sea. If you haven’t heard of the bombing of Serhiivka, that’s not surprising either. Random attacks on random places, far from the front lines and with no military significance whatsoever, are now a daily occurrence in Ukraine. According to Oleksander Chechytko, a prosecutor who was collecting evidence in Serhiivka when I visited, three Kh-22 bombs hit the town on the night of July 1. The Kh-22 is an anti-ship missile produced in the 1960s. It was designed to hit warships, but there are no warships in Serhiivka. There are no military objects in Serhiivka at all, Chechytko told me. The nearest military installation, he said, is at least five kilometers away. [Continue reading…]