: UN rings alarm bells on record number of civilian casualties in eastern Ukraine

17:17 Aug. 3, 2016

UN rings alarm bells on record number of civilian casualties in eastern Ukraine

A building damaged by a shelling attack in eastern Ukraine, August 1, 2016 (Getty Images)

Neither Ukrainian forces nor the armed groups are taking the necessary precautions to protect civilians - UN High Commissioner for Human Rights  

Civilian casualty figures in eastern Ukraine have risen dramatically in the past two months, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein warned on Wednesday, calling on all parties to the conflict to prioritize the protection of civilians and take urgent steps to de-escalate the increasingly tense situation at the contact line.

The UN Human Rights Office documented 69 civilian casualties in eastern Ukraine in June 2016, including 12 dead and 57 injured. This was nearly double the figure for May 2016 and the highest figure since August 2015. In July, the figure rose further to 73 civilian casualties, including eight dead and 65 injured. The monthly average for June and July this year, at 71, was more than double the monthly average of 34 in the nine months between September 2015 and May 2016.

"The escalation of hostilities and the accompanying civilian casualties in eastern Ukraine over the last two months are very worrying. Civilians are once again having to flee to improvised bomb shelters in their basements, sometimes overnight, with increasing frequency – the price of the ceasefire violations is too high for the women, men and children in eastern Ukraine," High Commissioner Zeid said.

Watch also Eastern Ukraine as shooting range for Russia

He added that neither Ukrainian forces nor the armed groups are taking the necessary precautions to protect civilians, and urged all sides to  to remove combatants and weapons from civilian areas.

According to the UN, more than half of all the casualties recorded in the past two months were caused by shelling, including through the use of weapons expressly prohibited by the Minsk Agreements. Mines, explosive remnants of war, booby traps and improvised explosive devices were responsible for most of the remaining casualties.

Read also Grim Donbas Record: UN reports highest civilian death toll since last summer

UN human rights teams on both sides of the contact line have documented reports of civilian homes looted, schools and hospitals shelled or used by Ukrainian forces and armed groups.

Moreover, damaged electric stations or lines have resulted in interruptions of water supplies for residents on both sides of the contact line. An estimated 25,000 to 30,000 people cross the contact line each day, using five crossings that are surrounded by inadequately marked minefields.

In total, from the start of Russia-orchestrated conflict in mid-April 2014 to 31 July 2016, the UN Human Rights Office has documented 31,690 casualties, including 9,553 killed and 22,137 injured in the conflict area in eastern Ukraine. This includes Ukrainian armed forces, civilians and members of the armed groups.

 

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