Russia's war in Ukraine has inflicted 'horrific human cost': UN

A local resident looks at a crater following a Russian missile attack in Chuhuyiv, Kharkiv region, on February 15, 2024. Picture: Anatolii STEPANOV / AFP

A local resident looks at a crater following a Russian missile attack in Chuhuyiv, Kharkiv region, on February 15, 2024. Picture: Anatolii STEPANOV / AFP

Published Feb 22, 2024


Russia's war in Ukraine has exacted a terrible human cost and inflicted suffering on millions, the United Nations rights chief said Thursday, ahead of the second anniversary of the invasion.

The damage caused by the war would be felt for generations, said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk, renewing his call for Moscow to stop the war immediately.

"The full-scale invasion of Ukraine by the Russian Federation has exacted a horrific human cost, inflicting immense suffering on millions of civilians," Turk said.

Russia invaded its neighbour on February 24, 2022.

"Russia's full-scale armed attack on Ukraine, which is about to enter its third year with no end in sight, continues to cause serious and widespread human rights violations, destroying lives and livelihoods," Turk said.

Turk called for thorough and independent investigations into all violations in the conflict and said victims should be afforded accountability and reparations.

He said millions of Ukrainians had been displaced, thousands had lost their homes, and hundreds of hospitals and schools had been damaged or destroyed.

"The long-term impact of this war in Ukraine will be felt for generations," he said.

Turk's office said that over the past two years it had documented "widespread torture, ill-treatment and arbitrary detention of civilians by Russian armed forces".

"Summary executions, enforced disappearances and repression of the right to freedom of expression and assembly have also been documented in occupied territory," it added.

The UN Human Rights Office said it had also documented violations committed by Ukrainian military and security forces, "albeit a fraction of the scope of those perpetrated by Russian forces".

"The ongoing Russian assault does not exempt Ukrainian forces from their own obligations to respect international human rights law and international humanitarian law," Turk noted.

He emphasised the urgency of achieving a just peace and appealed for Moscow to allow his office full access to those deprived of their liberty in the context of the war.

Over 10,000 deaths verified

In its latest report, the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine said it had been able to corroborate the conflict-related deaths of 10,582 civilians since February 24, 2022.

It verified that a further 19,875 civilians had been wounded.

"The actual numbers are likely significantly higher," it said.

The casualties include 587 killed and 1,298 injured children.

Men account for 60% of the adult civilian casualties.

Around 91% of the civilian casualties were caused by explosive weapons with wide area effects -- shelling, missiles and air strikes -- the vast majority likely fired by Russian armed forces, the report said.

Meanwhile Mariana Katzarova, the independent UN special rapporteur on human rights in Russia, said the invasion had intensified Russian repression of civil and political rights.

The invasion of Ukraine simultaneously "unleashed a war against Russians at home.

There is no longer any safe space for civic action or political opposition within Russia," she said in a statement.

The Kremlin has "silenced civil society, independent media, and any anti-war expression", she said, with "ostentatious trials designed to instil fear and lengthy arbitrary imprisonments aimed at stifling dissent".

"Today, I call on the international community to stand in solidarity with all the victims of the war against Ukraine, including the brave Russian human rights defenders, journalists and activists who continue to courageously oppose the war despite facing intimidation, persecution, lengthy imprisonment, and even death."