The United Nations on Friday raised to more than 14,000 the number of Ukrainian civilians who have been killed or injured as a result of the Russian invasion, unleashed on February 24 by order of Russian President Vladimir Putin, a figure that includes more than 5,750 killed since the beginning of hostilities.
The head of the UN Human Rights monitoring mission in Ukraine, Matilda Bogner, has indicated in a telematic appearance from the city of Odessa that the agency has so far been able to confirm 14,059 civilian casualties, including 5,767 dead and 8,292 wounded, although she stressed that “it is known that the real figure is likely to be considerably higher.”
“Every day we talk to people from all over the country and hear from victims who have suffered human rights violations in the context of the armed conflict, which escalated after the armed attack by Russia,” explained Bogner, who stressed that to date 416 arbitrary arrests or enforced disappearances have also been verified in the territories occupied by Russian forces or affiliated armed groups.
In this regard, he explained that “of the total, 16 have been found dead and 166 have been released” and pointed out that 51 arbitrary arrests and another 30 cases that “could amount to forced disappearances” by the Ukrainian authorities since the outbreak of the war have also been documented.
“We have documented a range of violations against prisoners of war. We have been granted unrestricted access to detention facilities on Ukrainian government-controlled territory, although Russia has not provided access to prisoners of war held on its territory or territory under occupation, including areas controlled by the Armed Forces and armed affiliated groups,” he has argued.
Bogner has stressed that “this is of concern, given that prisoners of war held by Russia and held by the Russian Armed Forces or affiliated armed groups have been documented to have suffered torture and ill-treatment and because some places of detention lack adequate food, water, sanitation and hygienic facilities.”
“We have received information about a harsh situation at the sanitary level in the Olenivka penal colony, where many Ukrainian prisoners of war have suffered from infectious diseases, including hepatitis A and tuberculosis. We have also documented many cases where Ukrainian prisoners of war have not been allowed to contact their relatives to tell them that they have been captured, their location or to talk to them about their health,” he denounced.
In this line, he stressed that the organization “is following cases of many pregnant prisoners of war in places controlled by the Russian Armed Forces or affiliated armed groups” and called on Moscow to “consider the immediate release of these women on humanitarian grounds.”
Bogner has further indicated that “cases of torture and ill-treatment of prisoners of war” have also been documented in areas controlled by the Ukrainian authorities and said that these abuses “usually take place after capture, during initial interrogations or transfer to internment camps.” “Our mission was able to visit a camp of prisoners of war in Ukraine, although most of them are still being held in prison facilities, in violation of the rule that prisoners of war should not be held in confinement,” he said.
On the other hand, he has warned of the “significant deterioration” of the situation in the Crimean peninsula, annexed by Russia in 2014, and highlighted the imposition of “restrictions on the exercise of fundamental freedoms, torture and ill-treatment, enforced disappearances and arbitrary arrests, violations of the right to a fair trial and lack of accountability for these human rights abuses.”
“We are concerned that the pattern of Human Rights violations documented in Crimea since 2014 may be repeated in the newly Russian-occupied territory in Ukraine,” he noted, before pointing out that since March, 89 prosecutions have been documented against individuals in Crimea for “public actions aimed at discrediting the Russian Armed Forces.”
“We have documented arbitrary arrests and torture of individuals detained in the Kherson region, occupied by Russian forces, and transferred to Crimea. In addition, men crossing the administrative border from Ukraine have been subjected to so-called ‘filtration’ by the Federal Security Service at checkpoints. According to credible reports received by our mission, this exposes them to the risk of enforced disappearance, arbitrary arrest, torture and ill-treatment,” he said.
He also warned that “Crimean Tatars continue to face intimidation and harassment, police raids, prosecutions on terrorism and extremism charges that often do not meet human rights standards” and added that “detained Tatars continue to be deported to remote areas of Russia to serve their sentences.”
Finally, Bogner assured that the mission he heads “will continue to document and report on the facts on the ground and the voices of the victims” and defended that “this is an essential part of trying to prevent further violations and to hold accountable those responsible for the violations already committed” in the framework of the armed conflict.