UN: Civilians Bear the Brunt of Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet is calling for an end to the war in Ukraine and for perpetrators of atrocities and crimes in the conduct of the war to be held accountable. Bachelet presented her latest update on the situation in Ukraine to the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva Tuesday.

Bachelet’s report covers the period between February 24 when Russia invaded Ukraine and May 15. The report presents an exhaustive tally of killings, widespread destruction, arbitrary detentions, forced disappearance and other gross violations of human rights.

In reviewing this list of atrocities, the U.N. rights chief noted that the unbearable toll of the conflict in Ukraine continued to mount, adding that civilians bore the brunt of the ongoing hostilities. She accused Russia and to a lesser extent Ukraine of violating international humanitarian law (IHL).  

“The high numbers of civilian casualties and the extent of destruction caused to civilian infrastructure continue to raise significant concerns that attacks conducted by Russian armed forces are not complying with IHL,” she said. “While on a much lower scale, it also appears likely that Ukrainian armed forces did not fully comply with IHL in eastern parts of the country.”  

Bachelet said the United Nations has documented more than 10,000 civilian deaths or injuries across Ukraine, adding the actual figures are likely to be considerably higher. She said most of these civilian casualties were caused by explosive weapons, including cluster munitions, in populated areas.

“Even though the civilian toll from such weapons, used in the manner they have been, has become indisputable, Russian armed forces have continued to operate the same way — with predictable consequences on the civilian population and its infrastructure,” she said

Speaking via video link from Kyiv, Ukraine’s First Deputy Foreign Minister Emine Dzhaparova told the council that Russia’s missiles, bombs, and projectiles claim the lives of innocent Ukrainians daily. She said the Office of Ukraine’s Prosecutor General has registered more than 20,000 crimes of aggression and war crimes committed by Russian forces.

“The attacks on the shopping mall in the city of Kremenchuk, which killed dozens of innocent civilians, has no justification from a military perspective,” she said. “It was a clear-cut terrorist attack. We urge international human rights and investigative mechanisms to provide their objective assessment of all Russian crimes.”     

First Councilor at the Russian Mission in Geneva Evgeny Ustinov accused the high commissioner of spreading lies and rejected the report as part of a disinformation campaign against Russia. He said the high commissioner’s office had become an accomplice in the crimes of the Kyiv regime and its Western sponsors.

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