The peaceful park with its alleys, its small amusement park, its pavilions and its stages, its Ferris wheel and its small train, is reputed to be one of the most beautiful in the country. It was hit by around fifty shells in March, April and May.
Justice took up the case to ensure that the park could open without the public being in danger, but above all to determine whether there was a war crime.
Even if there were no victims, “hitting civilian targets, cultural infrastructure, trying to kill civilians and destroy cultural heritage, are considered war crimes”, explains Roman Petrenko, for whom he there is no doubt.
“An error can happen once or twice, but there are 56 impacts recorded at the moment. It’s not an accident. They were targeting the park,” he accuses.
Accompanied by a team of deminers, assistants, ushers and workers, the prosecutor lists each crater, has the ammunition dug up after an inspection by the deminers and then photographs them, lists them, determines the angle of fire and the origin of the projectile.
The shells notably hit a small theater or even a kind of closed restaurant. But more spectacular: in several places the shrapnel reached and crossed bronze sculptures of children placed everywhere in the park.
Two American deminers from the NGO Bombs Tech Without Borders advise their Ukrainian counterparts.
For John Culp, a retired American soldier, there is no doubt either: “We are in Gorky Park (…) with its paths, its scenes, etc. We are investigating the fact that many rockets and many shells were fired in and around the park. There is no military objective here. This was done knowingly to cause terror and fear among the civilian population.”
Attacked from the first hours of the Russian invasion on February 24 because it is located near the border, Kharkiv suffered weeks of deadly bombardments, before the Ukrainian troops regained ground.
If the Russian noose loosened around this city of 1.4 million inhabitants before the war, Kharkiv remains under permanent threat.