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Press briefing note on Ukraine

Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: Ravina Shamdasani
Location: Geneva
Date: 17 April 2015
Subject:   Ukraine

We are increasingly worried that the dire human rights situation in areas of the east of Ukraine is likely to deteriorate further as a result of breaches in the ceasefire. There are reports of intensification of fighting, especially in the vicinity of the Donetsk airport and near the village of Shyrokine in the Donetsk region, where heavy weapons, including mortars, artillery and tanks are reportedly extensively used - in violation of provisions of the Minsk Agreement.

In one day alone, on 13 April, the Ukrainian armed forces reported six servicemen killed and 12 wounded, while the self-proclaimed ‘Donetsk people’s republic’ and self-proclaimed ‘Luhansk people’s republic’ claimed four of their fighters were killed and 17 wounded. We fear a further escalation of hostilities.

Since April 2014, at least 6,116 people, both military personnel and civilians, have been killed* and 15,474 wounded. These figures are estimates, up to 14 April 2015, and the actual number of casualties could be considerably higher. Hundreds of people remain missing and hundreds of bodies are still pending recovery and/or identification.

Civilians continue to suffer seriously as a result of the protracted conflict. So far, in 2015 alone, about 400 civilians have been killed as a result of indiscriminate shelling of residential areas and because of landmines and unexploded ordnance – both in Government-controlled territories and in territories controlled by armed groups.

The killings in Kyiv of a former parliamentarian, Oleh Kalashnikov, and of two journalists, Oles Buzyna and Serhiy Sukhobok, are also very disturbing and must result in a swift, independent and credible investigation shedding light on these crimes and ensuring justice and accountability for those responsible.

The protection of civilians must be considered the utmost priority and those committing violations of human rights and international humanitarian law, in any part of the country and by any side to the conflict, must be held accountable.

The conflict also continues to severely affect the daily life of the population, both in conflict-affected zones and in the rest of Ukraine. The proliferation of arms, the lack of job opportunities, limited access to medical and psychological rehabilitation, particularly for more than 20,000 demobilised soldiers, and a deep anxiety that the ceasefire may not hold all have a serious impact on the population.

We urge all parties to comply at all times with international humanitarian law and human rights law and respect the provisions contained in the Minsk Agreement.


* The casualty figures are estimated by the UN Human Rights Office and the World Health Organisation.

For more information, please contact Ravina Shamdasani (+41 22 917 9169 / rshamdasani@ohchr.org).cpouilly@ohchr.org