UN: Russian Military Attacks on Ukrainian Civilians Violate International Humanitarian Law

U.N. human rights monitors in Ukraine are condemning the use of explosive weapons and indiscriminate attacks by Russian military forces on civilians and civilian infrastructure as a probable violation of international humanitarian law.

Since Russia invaded Ukraine one month ago the United Nations human rights office reports at least 1,035 civilians have been killed and some 1,650 injured. It says it is difficult to get an accurate count on the number of casualties during a brutal, ongoing war.

However, what is certain is that the death toll and human suffering in cities, towns, and villages across Ukraine is increasing day after day. The head of the human rights monitoring mission in Ukraine, Matilda Bogner, says the biggest area of concern is the wide use of explosive weapons in populated areas.

Speaking on a video link from the western Ukrainian city of Uzhhorod, Bogner says Russian military forces have widely used missiles, heavy artillery shells, rockets, and other explosive weapons, as well as airstrikes in or near populated areas.

“Private houses, multi-story residential buildings, administrative buildings, medical and education facilities, water stations, electricity systems have all been destroyed on a massive scale, with disastrous effects on civilians and their human rights, including their rights to health, food, water, education and housing.”

Bogner confirms the use of cluster munitions by Russia and says monitors are looking into allegations of their use by Ukrainian armed forces. She says the attacks cause immeasurable suffering and may amount to war crimes.

“Since the 24th of February, we have received allegations of Russian forces shooting at and killing civilians in cars during evacuations, without taking feasible precautions or giving effective advance warning. We are also following up on other allegations that Russian forces have killed civilians, including during peaceful assemblies.”

Bogner says monitors are looking into allegations that thousands of people who have fled the city of Mariupol and other areas have been forcibly deported to the Russian Federation and, supposedly, are being held hostage by Russian authorities. She says U.N. monitors so far have not been able to verify whether Ukrainian civilians who have gone to Russia have been forcibly moved there.

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