A devastating report published by the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine sheds light on the harrowing toll that the ongoing conflict has taken on Ukrainian civilians. Since the conflict erupted in February 2022, nearly 10,000 individuals have lost their lives, and tens of thousands have been wounded, painting a bleak picture of the impact of Russia’s full-scale invasion.
UKRAINE; UNPRECEDENTED TOLL ON CIVILIANS
The report unveils the stark reality of the war, with an average of nearly six people killed and 20 wounded every single day between February and July of the current year. In just six months, over one thousand civilians lost their lives, and nearly four thousand suffered injuries. The grim statistics are a grim reminder of the human cost of the conflict.
UKRAINE; RUSSIAN FEDERATION’S ROLE
The report attributes a significant portion of civilian casualties to missiles, air strikes, and loitering munitions launched by the Russian Federation, resulting in at least 262 civilian deaths and 990 injuries. These attacks have not only claimed lives but have also caused substantial economic and social damage. Notably, the Russian Federation’s missile strikes on the Odesa region, following its withdrawal from the Black Sea Grain Initiative, caused civilian casualties, extensive damage to historic buildings, port facilities, and surrounding infrastructure, as well as the destruction of grain and other vital exports. These strikes not only threaten global food stability but also impact the livelihoods of those in the agricultural sector, further challenging the right to an adequate standard of living in rural communities.
ENVIRONMENTAL DISASTER AND HUMAN RIGHTS IMPLICATIONS
In June 2023, the breach of the dam at the Kakhovska Hydroelectric Power Plant resulted in massive flooding downstream, triggering an environmental catastrophe that has had catastrophic effects on communities across the region. The incident is expected to have long-term repercussions for various human rights, particularly the rights to health, water, and an adequate standard of living.
HUMANITARIAN ACCESS DENIED
Furthermore, the Russian Federation has denied humanitarian access to areas under its occupation on the left bank of the Dnipro River. The report also documents instances where Russian armed forces hindered access to volunteers engaged in urgent emergency relief efforts, exacerbating the suffering of affected communities.
CONFLICT-RELATED SEXUAL VIOLENCE
Disturbingly, the report reveals that between February and July 2023, members of Russian armed forces and Russian penitentiary services committed acts of conflict-related sexual violence against both men and women. These acts are consistent with previously documented patterns of sexual violence by these entities, often occurring in the context of deprivation of liberty and affecting civilian women and girls in residential areas.
ARBITRARY DETENTION AND SUMMARY EXECUTIONS
Arbitrary detention and incommunicado detention of civilians persisted in Russian-occupied Ukrainian territory, with a recorded 35 men and 8 women arbitrarily detained by Russian armed forces during the reporting period. Shockingly, 80 of those detained died in custody or were found dead with signs of violence, while 468 remain in arbitrary or incommunicado detention. Many of these cases amount to enforced disappearances.
The report also documents cases of arbitrary detention by Ukrainian security forces, often violating national laws, including exceeding the maximum period of arrest without a court warrant or holding detainees in unofficial places of detention. These arrests primarily targeted individuals suspected of collaborating with or aiding Russian armed forces.
APPALLING CONDITIONS FOR PRISONERS OF WAR
Ukrainian prisoners of war (POWs) held by the Russian Federation have faced summary executions, torture, and ill-treatment, including forced labour. Of the 56 Ukrainian servicemen interviewed during the reporting period, 51 reported various forms of torture and ill-treatment. Similar cases were documented among Russian POWs, with 12 out of 26 reporting torture or ill-treatment during interrogation at unofficial places of internment.
EXPLOSIONS AT PENAL COLONY AND CHILD TRANSFERS
The report also raises concerns about explosions at a penal colony near Olenivka, attributing them to dangers related to the proximity of the colony to the frontline, a violation of international humanitarian law. Additionally, cases of children, including those with disabilities, being transferred or deported from various Ukrainian regions to other territories, including Russia and Belarus, have been documented, with some experiencing or witnessing violence while in educational facilities.
COERCION AND CITIZENSHIP POLICIES
Russian authorities have resorted to intimidation tactics against men residing in occupied parts of Donetsk and Luhansk regions to force them into serving in Russian armed forces. Women relatives of deserters have also been threatened. Mass conferral of Russian citizenship in Kherson, Zaporizhzhia, Donetsk, and Luhansk regions has exacerbated the coercive environment, with those refusing Russian passports facing restricted access to public services and heightened risks at checkpoints.
RELIGIOUS FREEDOM AND LANGUAGE RIGHTS
In Crimea, the Russian Federation has continued to prosecute individuals for “public actions directed at discrediting” and “obstructing” Russian armed forces, further constraining the ability of Crimean residents to freely express their opinions. Additionally, in territories under Ukraine’s control, measures against the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, including the termination of lease agreements and cases of physical violence and threats between parishioners of different Orthodox Christian communities, have been documented.
LEGAL CONCERNS AND ECONOMIC IMPACT
Legal concerns arise from the continued use of criminal charges related to collaboration activities, criminalizing a wide range of civilian conduct while living under Russian occupation. This is in contravention of international humanitarian law.
Finally, the report highlights the economic impact of the conflict, with millions of people living below the poverty line as a result of reduced fiscal capacity in Ukraine. The report encourages the Ukrainian government to allocate more resources to social protection to address the increased poverty resulting from the conflict.
These findings underscore the dire humanitarian situation in Ukraine, emphasizing the urgency of a peaceful resolution to the conflict and the importance of upholding human rights in the midst of adversity.