Ukraine war reaches 500 days, UN laments 9,000 civilians killed

UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine marks 500 days of war, deplores ‘horrendous’ civilian death toll.

Local residents react at a site of a residential building hit by a Russian missile strike, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, in Lviv, Ukraine July 6, 2023. REUTERS/Roman Baluk TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Local residents at the site of a residential building hit by a Russian missile in Lviv, Ukraine, on July 6, 2023 [Roman Baluk/Reuters]

More than 9,000 civilians, including 500 children, have been killed since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, 2022, the United Nations has said, condemning the cost to civilians as the war in Ukraine reached the 500-day mark.

The UN’s Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine (HRMMU) said in a statement on Friday that it “deplored the horrendous civilian cost of the war in Ukraine” and was able to confirm that 9,000 civilians had been killed so far in the conflict. The mission warned that the actual toll is likely to be far higher than the number of officially confirmed deaths.

“Today we mark another grim milestone in the war that continues to exact a horrific toll on Ukraine’s civilians,” Noel Calhoun, the deputy head of HRMMU, said in the statement to mark the 500th day since the start of the invasion.

While this year the casualty numbers in Ukraine have been lower on average than in 2022, the figure began to climb again in May and June, the monitors noted.

On June 27, 13 civilians, including four children, were killed in a missile attack on Kramatorsk in eastern Ukraine.

And far from the front line in Ukraine’s western city of Lviv, 10 people were killed and another 37 were wounded during a missile attack early on Thursday morning that the mayor called the biggest attack on civilian infrastructure since the invasion began.

The UN said that the attack was also the first to take place in an area protected by the World Heritage Convention and had damaged a historic building.

The UN monitoring mission in Ukraine also noted that three times as many civilians were killed in the last 500 days compared with the entire previous eight years of hostilities in eastern Ukraine, when Russian-backed separatists seized Crimea and other areas.

Russia regularly bombards Ukraine with air attacks, including indiscriminate artillery and missile fire that have been especially deadly for civilians. Russia has also attacked civilian infrastructure and supply lines, depriving civilians of power and water.

The cities of Bucha and Mariupol became bywords for Russian atrocities last year, after reports and images of massacres there shocked the world and prompted allegations of war crimes and even genocide.

On Friday, the US announced that it would provide Ukrainian forces with cluster munitions, which human rights groups have slammed because of the dangers posed to civilians by the use of such weapons.

Cluster bombs release large numbers of bomblets across wide areas and the indiscriminate nature of the explosives presents a major threat to civilians, both during conflict and long afterwards because a percentage of bomblets fail to explode.

More than 120 countries have signed the 2008 UN Convention on Cluster Munitions to ban their use.

Source: Agence France Presse, Al Jazeera