Ukraine civilian deaths ‘thousands higher’ than official toll: UN

Thousands more civilians have been killed in Ukraine in the war there, which has been going on for more than two months, than the official United Nations death toll of 3,381, the head of the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in the country has said.

“Overall, to date, we have corroborated 7,061 civilian casualties, with 3,381 killed and 3,680 injured across the country since the beginning of the armed attack by the Russian Federation. The actual figures are higher and we are working to corroborate every single incident,” Matilda Bogner told a news briefing in Geneva on Tuesday.

“We have been working on estimates, but all I can say for now is that it is thousands higher than the numbers we have currently given to you,” she said.

The UN team in Ukraine comprising 55 monitors has said most of the deaths occurred from the use of explosive weapons with a wide impact area such as missile and air attacks.

The high number of civilian casualties and the extent of destruction and damage to civilian objects suggest that the Russians are attacking indiscriminately and disproportionately, the UN team found.

Moscow denies targeting civilians and calls its invasion, launched on February 24, a “special military operation” to disarm Ukraine and “denazify” it and rid it of what it calls anti-Russian nationalists fomented by the West. Ukraine and its allies say these are baseless claims that Russian uses to justify its full-scale invasion.

The team recorded hundreds of educational and medical facilities destroyed or damaged across the country, as well as at least 50 Christian, Jewish and Muslim places of worship of different denominations, half of which the UN said have sustained severe damage and cannot be used.

Curtailed access to health facilities and medical care has led to an increase in mortality rates, especially because it was often too dangerous for people to leave their homes or shelters.

“In Yahidne village, we were told about 10 older people who died in the school basement after spending days or in some cases even weeks unable to leave,” Bogner said.

Bogner said her team was also investigating what she described as allegations of rape, including gang rape, attempted rape, forced nudity, threats of sexual violence against civilian women and girls, men and boys. Women and girls are the most frequently cited victims, she said.

“During my recent visit to towns north of Kyiv, we documented a number of cases of sexual violence. In one town that we visited a woman was raped and killed allegedly by a Russian soldier. The same soldier then attempted to rape her neighbour. This woman’s husband intervened, but was then shot by the soldier. He later died.”

Bogner spoke of cases of forced enforcement by Russian troops, who detained civilians, mostly young men, and transferred them to Belarus and then Russia, where they have been held in pre-trial detention centres.

“Overall, since 24 February, we have documented 204 cases of enforced disappearance [169 men, 34 women, one boy], the overwhelming majority of them by Russian armed forces and affiliated armed groups,” she said.

Bogner also spoke of “credible allegations” of torture, ill-treatment and executions by Ukrainian forces against the Russian invading forces and affiliated armed groups.

“In terms of the extent of violations by Ukrainian forces, while the scale is significantly higher on the side of allegations against Russian forces, we are also documenting violations by Ukrainian forces,” she said.