UN observers record ‘catastrophic’ impact on civilians from fighting in north-east Ukraine

Наблюдатели ООН зафиксировали «катастрофическое» воздействие на мирных жителей боевых действий на северо-востоке Украины

Many of those evacuated from Vovchansk and other areas arrived in Kharkov, which is also under shelling. UN observers record ‘catastrophic’ impact on civilians from fighting in north-east Ukraine Peace and Security

Evidence collected by the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine shows the catastrophic impact on civilians of the recent escalation of fighting in the northeast of the country, where Russian forces have seized control of several villages. Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Liz Throssell stated this at a briefing in Geneva.

People who fled areas along the front line in the Kharkov region, she said, say that they had to huddle for several days in cold, dark basements, without electricity – against the backdrop of intense aerial bombing and drone strikes and rockets, as well as artillery attacks.

There was massive destruction of residential buildings and other civilian infrastructure. More than ten thousand people became internally displaced.

Death of civilians

According to the Monitoring Mission, since the start of the offensive by Russian armed forces on May 10, at least 35 civilians have been killed and 137 injured in the Kharkov region. Of those killed and wounded in the northern part of the region, where the most intense fighting took place, more than half of the people were over 60 years old. According to Liz Throssell, this reflects the disproportionate number of elderly people in border and frontline areas who, in many cases, were unable or unwilling to leave their homes even in the face of a rapidly deteriorating security situation.

Since May 10, the Monitoring Mission has interviewed 90 displaced civilians and visited several affected areas. People reported seeing killed or wounded neighbors. 

Local authorities and volunteers are taking significant risks to help vulnerable people get to safety. On May 16, two medical workers, two ambulance drivers and a local official were injured while trying to remove civilians from the village of Bugaevka.

Strike on a recreation center

On the morning of May 19, Russian armed forces attacked a recreation center in the village of Cherkaska-Lozovaya near Kharkov. Less than 20 minutes later, the site was struck again while police and medical personnel were already on the scene, arriving to treat the victims. Observers of the Monitoring Mission who visited this place recorded the death of at least six civilians, dozens of people were injured. 

Many of those evacuated from Vovchansk and other areas arrived in Kharkov , which is also under fire. Several rocket attacks hit Kharkov on Thursday, reportedly killing seven civilians and injuring 21.

“We again call on the Russian Federation to strictly adhere to all international law relating to the conduct of hostilities,” Liz Throssell said at a briefing in Geneva. “The long-term effects of the war in Ukraine will be felt for generations, and the challenge of rebuilding shattered communities will become greater with each passing day of violence and destruction.”

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