9,333 Killed Since Ukraine Conflict Began, U.N. Says

UNITED NATIONS, USA -- Nearly 10,000 people have been killed and more than 20,000 wounded since the Ukraine conflict began in April 2014, a top United Nations official said Thursday.

Taye-Brook Zerihoun

The official, Taye-Brook Zerihoun, the assistant secretary general for political affairs, told the Security Council that the total number of casualties was now 30,729, with 9,333 people killed and 21,396 wounded.

Mr. Zerihoun said the most recent casualties occurred Wednesday when shelling killed at least four civilians and wounded at least eight people in Olenivka, near the city of Donetsk.

He said that fighting had escalated in recent weeks to levels not seen since August 2014, when it was at its most intense, and he called on all parties to cease hostilities.

He criticized both sides for hindering access to an international monitoring mission put in place under the cease-fire agreement worked out in Minsk, Belarus, on Feb. 14, 2015, by Ukraine, Russia, France and Germany, but he said that according to statistics provided by the monitors, restrictions were more common in rebel-held areas.

The Security Council meeting on Thursday was the first since December 2015 to address the situation in Ukraine.

During the meeting, representatives from Russia and Ukraine traded bitter accusations over who was to blame for the flare-up in hostilities.

“Russia has organized and deployed in Donbas a 34,000-strong hybrid military force consisting of the regular Russian troops as well as of foreign and local militants,” Vadym Prystaiko, Ukraine’s deputy minister of foreign affairs, told the Council.

“Russian generals and military officers provide direct command-and-control of this illegal military entity, impressively heavily armed.”

Mr. Prystaiko claimed that this force was better armed than most NATO members despite the Russians’ claims that the weapons were acquired in local hardware stores.

“Last time I checked, you will hardly be able to buy a decent knife in Ukrainian hardware stores, not to mention the multiple-launch rocket systems and jet flamethrowers,” Mr. Prystaiko said.

Ambassador Vitaly I. Churkin of Russia denounced the United Nations session as a play for time while Ukraine’s army occupied towns “in the neutral strip” stipulated by the Minsk agreement.

“Over the entire crisis, the U.N. has been used as a propaganda platform,” Churkin said, dismissing the Ukraine statement before the Security Council as “very disappointing,” and “a lot of rhetoric.”

Russia tried to circulate a statement that would reaffirm the United Nations’ commitment to the Minsk agreement, but it failed to gain consensus approval because it also called for an investigation into the killing of Russian protesters in Odessa, without mentioning violations of the cease-fire by rebel forces.

The United States, France and Britain all denounced Russian aggression for igniting the conflict. 

“What is happening today is the result of Russia’s violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity which began with its occupation of Crimea more than two years ago and expanded with substantial military on the ground and weapons support for armed separatists in Eastern Ukraine,” the American ambassador, Samantha Power, told the Council.

Source: The New York Times