U.N. Report Details Casualties In Eastern Ukraine

GENEVA, Switzerland -- Hundreds of people have been killed and thousands have fled their homes amid rising violence, insecurity and crime in areas of eastern Ukraine that are under the control of pro-Russian armed groups, the United Nations said on Wednesday.

A total of 356 people were known to have been killed since mid-April, Gianni Magazzeni, a senior United Nations human rights official, told reporters in Geneva as he presented the latest in a series of monthly reports by the United Nations’ team of 34 monitors in Ukraine.

Fighting between the Ukrainian Army and armed groups in the eastern areas of Donetsk and Luhansk has increased in regularity and intensity as the government in Kiev seeks to assert its authority and has led to a growing number of civilian casualties, the United Nations reported, noting that separatist groups had acknowledged that their ranks include fighters from Chechnya and the Caucasus.

The dead included 257 civilians and 86 Ukrainian military personnel, including the 49 who were killed last week when separatists shot down a military transport plane with a shoulder-launched missile as it approached Luhansk airport, Mr. Magazzeni said.

The report did not offer additional detail about the remaining 13 deaths.

“We are talking of a reign of fear, if not of terror” in the pockets of territory around Donetsk and Luhansk controlled by armed separatists and now experiencing a state of total lawlessness, Mr. Magazzeni said, citing cases of people shot at checkpoints for no reason and members of armed groups who were summarily shot because they no longer wanted to fight.

“The escalation in criminal activity resulting in human rights abuses is no longer limited to targeting journalists, elected representatives, local politicians, civil servants and civil society activists,” the report stated.

“Abductions, detentions, acts of ill-treatment and torture, and killings by armed groups are now affecting the broader population of the two eastern regions.”

The United Nations refugee agency has reported that more than 34,000 Ukrainians have been displaced.

Most were from Crimea, where people who speak Ukrainian or do not want to change their nationality to Russian face discrimination and intimidation, Mr. Magazzeni said.

“They are mostly concerned about security: people report staying in cellars to keep away from the fighting, facing harassment at checkpoints and fearing the increasingly common abductions, threats and extortion,” the monitors reported.

Source: The New York Times