UN rights office details latest abuses in Russia's attack on Ukraine

Le logo du HCDH est visible au Palais Wilson à Genève
Le logo du Haut-Commissariat des Nations Unies aux droits de l'homme est visible au Palais Wilson à Genève, en Suisse. /Photo prise le 2 novembre 2022/REUTERS/Denis Balibouse
  • U.N. human rights office accuses Russian troops of abuses
  • New report sees severe toll on civilians from invasion
  • Moscow has repeatedly denied war crime allegations

KYIV, March 24 (Reuters) - The United Nations human rights office said on Friday its investigators had confirmed thousands more civilian casualties in Russia's invasion of Ukraine, including 21 people killed by Russian forces in executions or individual attacks.

"A year after the Russian Federation launched a full-scale armed attack against Ukraine, the hostilities continue to exert a severe toll on children, women and men across the country," the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) said in a new report.

It found at least 5,987 civilians had been killed or injured between Aug. 1, 2022, and Jan. 31, 2023, a number it said was likely to be a significant underestimate since it only covered those cases its investigators had been able to verify.

Indiscriminate explosive weapons were responsible for a large number of civilian casualties, the report said, and its figures showed at that least four times more civilian casualties occurred in Ukrainian-held territory than Russian-held areas.

A majority of 133 instances of conflict-related sexual violence OHCHR documented took place on Russian-occupied territory, including during "so-called 'filtration' processes", it said.

Russia's Permanent Mission to the United Nations Office and other international organizations in Geneva did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the findings.

Moscow has repeatedly denied accusations that its forces have committed atrocities during the invasion, which it claims is a "special military operation".

The report documented the disappearance or "arbitrary detention" of 214 Ukrainians in Russian-occupied territory and 91 such cases in Ukrainian government-held areas. Most of those arrested by Ukraine were suspected collaborators, it said.

Ukraine did not immediately comment on the report.


The report said the OHCHR is "gravely concerned" about what it described as the mistreatment, torture and disappearance of children by Russian forces, including the abduction of five teenage boys, all of whom were tortured.

The International Criminal Court last week issued an arrest warrant against Russian President Vladimir Putin for the war crime of illegally deporting hundreds of children from Ukraine. The Kremlin called the move unacceptable and outrageous.

Russia has not concealed a programme under which it has brought thousands of Ukrainian children to Russia, but presents it as a humanitarian campaign to protect orphans and children abandoned in the conflict zone.

A separate OHCHR report, also released on Friday, blamed both Russian and Ukrainian forces for the mistreatment of prisoners of war. It said the Ukrainian government had provided "full and confidential access" to official internment sites.

It said it had documented the summary execution of 15 Ukrainian POWs and 25 Russian POWs, which the agency said "may constitute war crimes", but that the findings were "influenced in substantial measure by the level and kind of access to detention facilities and POWs".

The U.N. added that overall Russian POWs "were treated in better fashion, once held in transit and permanent places of internments (sic)". It also said Ukrainian authorities have "actively engaged" on U.N. concerns over POW treatment.

In both reports, the OHCHR called on "all parties" to protect victims and punish perpetrators.

Moscow and Kyiv did not immediately comment on the OHCHR report on prisoners of war.

(This story has been refiled to add the full title of the Russian mission in paragraph 6)

Reporting by Dan Peleschuk; Additional reporting by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber; editing by Philippa Fletcher

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