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Statements Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

Situation in Ukraine

25 March 2022

Situation in Ukraine

Delivered by

Ms. Matilda Bogner - Head of Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine on the situation in Ukraine

Day after day, the death toll and human suffering in cities, towns and villages across Ukraine is increasing. The facts as we have been reporting speak for themselves: since Russian armed forces launched their attacks on 24 February, at least 1,035 civilians have been killed and at least 1,650 injured. I say “at least” because we do not yet have the full picture of locations that have seen intense fighting, in particular Mariupol and Volnovakha. 

Military forces have used explosive weapons with wide area effects in or near populated areas – including missiles, heavy artillery shells and rockets as well as airstrikes. Private houses, multi-storey residential buildings, administrative buildings, medical and education facilities, water stations, electricity systems have been destroyed on a massive scale,  with  disastrous effects on civilians and their human rights, including their rights  to health, food,  water, education and housing.  

The extent of civilian casualties and the destruction of civilian objects strongly suggests that the principles of distinction, of proportionality, the rule on feasible precautions and the prohibition of indiscriminate attacks have been violated. To give you two examples: on 3 March, 47 civilians were killed when two schools and several apartment blocks in Chernihiv were destroyed, and all indications are that these were the result of Russian airstrikes.

On 9 March, Mariupol Hospital No.3 was destroyed and most likely this also was the result of a Russian airstrike. Seventeen civilians, among them children and pregnant women, were injured. One injured woman was helped to deliver by Caesarean section soon after the attack, but neither she nor her baby survived. The doctors operated on them by candlelight. 

We are also looking into allegations of indiscriminate shelling by the Ukrainian armed forces in Donetsk and in other territory controlled by the self-proclaimed ‘republics’. 

These attacks cause immeasurable human suffering and may amount to war crimes, and they must stop.

Since 24 February, we have received allegations of Russian forces shooting at and killing civilians in cars during evacuations, without taking feasible precautions or giving effective advance warning. We are also following up on other allegations that Russian forces have killed civilians, including   during peaceful assemblies. We have also received two allegations of killing in Government controlled territory of civilians due to their alleged affiliation with Russian forces or support of pro-Russian views.

We have documented 22 cases of arbitrary detention and enforced disappearance of local officials in regions under the control of Russian forces, 13 of whom have been subsequently released. We have also documented the arbitrary detention and enforced disappearance of 15 journalists and civil society activists who vocally opposed the invasion in Kyiv, Kherson, Luhansk, and Zaporizhzhia regions.  We are currently trying to verify reports that five of the journalists and three of the activists were subsequently released. The whereabouts of the other individuals remain unknown.

We are also concerned by videos depicting prisoners of war being interrogated after their capture by both Ukrainian and Russian forces.   Prisoners of war must be treated humanely, not subjected to acts of violence and protected against insults and public curiosity.

Since the invasion by the Russian Federation, people believed to be thieves, bootleggers, pro-Russian supporters or curfew violators have been beaten in territory controlled by the Government of Ukraine. We have received credible allegations of more than 40 such cases of ill-treatment by police officers, volunteer defence force members and others.

This past month has highlighted the absolutely crucial role of journalists in getting the news out in such difficult and dangerous circumstances. But as we have seen, as hostilities intensify, journalists and media workers are facing increasing dangers in their work.  So far, 7 journalists and media workers have been killed in Ukraine since 24 February, and 12 have come under armed attack, with six of them injured.  At least one journalist is missing, his last known location was in an area of active hostilities.

We are deeply concerned about the plight of people who were already in vulnerable situations before the military attack.  People with disabilities have struggled to get to bomb shelters or other safe areas. They are also left without access to essential medicines due to the high level of insecurity.

Long-term care facilities for people with disabilities, and older people in Kyiv, Kharkiv and Luhansk regions face an appalling humanitarian situation. Amid the fighting and the lack of food, water, heating, electricity, and medication, residents of such facilities are all the more vulnerable as they depend on others for their care and support.  

You have been hearing from colleagues about the ongoing humanitarian work by the UN in Ukraine.  We call on all parties to ensure safe corridors for the evacuation of civilians from dangerous areas and to allow the timely delivery of humanitarian assistance to the civilian population across the country.

And just to end, as the Secretary General stated on 22 March, the war is going nowhere – fast – and the Ukrainian people are enduring a living hell. It is time to stop the fighting now.

Thank you