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Press releases Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

Ukraine: Türk deplores horrific human cost as Russia’s full-scale invasion enters third year

22 February 2024

This aerial photograph taken on February 1, 2024, shows residential buildings destroyed by shelling in Izyum, Kharkiv region, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine (Photo by Roman PILIPEY / AFP)

GENEVA (22 February 2024) – The full-scale invasion of Ukraine by the Russian Federation has exacted a horrific human cost, inflicting immense suffering on millions of civilians, UN Human Rights Chief Volker Türk said on Thursday.

“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,” he said.

In its latest report, the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine (HRMMU) has verified 30,457 civilian casualties since 24 February 2022 – comprising 10,582 killed and 19,875 injured, with the actual numbers likely to be significantly higher.

Millions have been displaced, thousands have lost their homes, and hundreds of medical and educational institutions have been damaged or destroyed, significantly impacting people’s rights to health and education. “The long-term impact of this war in Ukraine will be felt for generations,” said Türk.

This month marks not only two years since Russia’s full-scale armed attack, but also 10 years since it illegally annexed Ukraine’s Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol.

Over the past two years, the UN Human Rights Office has 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.

In addition, interviews with over 550 former Ukrainian prisoners of war and civilian detainees by HRMMU have indicated the commission of serious violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law by Russian armed forces, including summary execution and widespread torture.

Since 24 February 2022, the already dire human rights situation in occupied Crimea has worsened, with a crackdown on those criticising the occupation. The UN Human Rights Office will release a report on the decade-long Russian occupation next week.

“The ongoing Russian assault does not exempt Ukrainian forces from their own obligations to respect international human rights law and international humanitarian law,” said the UN Human Rights Chief. During the past two years, the Office has documented a number of violations committed by Ukrainian military and security forces, albeit a fraction of the scope of those perpetrated by Russian forces. Türk acknowledged that the UN Human Rights Office is continuously engaging with Ukrainian authorities to address these issues.

The High Commissioner called for all violations of human rights and of international humanitarian law to be thoroughly and independently investigated, and accountability and reparations to victims ensured.

He renewed his call on the Russian Federation to cease immediately its continuing armed attack on Ukraine, further to its obligations under international law and the UN Charter, and emphasised the urgency of achieving a just peace.

Türk also appealed again to the Russian Federation to allow the UN Human Rights Office and other independent international organisations full access to all those who have been deprived of their liberty in the context of the armed conflict.

To read the full report, please click here

For more information and media requests, please contact:

In Geneva
Liz Throssell - + 41 22 917 9296 / [email protected] 
Thameen Al-Kheetan - + 41 76 223 77 62 / [email protected]

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