UN condemns rising civilian deaths in Ukraine

2015-02-05 Vatican Radio

(Vatican Radio)-- The United Nations says a fresh surge in violence in east Ukraine is proving "catastrophic" as at least 5,358 people have been killed since last April, including 224 civilians killed in three-week period leading up to 1 February. At least 16 civilians were killed and dozens more injured within a 24 hour period as well as five soldiers, officials said.  Stefan Bos reports: 

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The rising death toll comes amid heavy fighting continues around the town of Debaltseve. It has been virtually destroyed with many residents trapped - hiding in basements, without food, electricity or water supplies. 

Pro-Russian separatists try to surround government forces in this strategic railway hub between the rebel controlled cities of Donetsk. Soldiers have died here and other areas in recent days.  

"The last 24 hours the enemy attacked our troops for times with artillery," a Ukrainian soldier explained. "Sometimes they are shooting at us from four directions at the same time."  

Thousands have fled, but many are unable to leave. Amid shootings, residents quickly leave their basements to try to catch drinking water or food.

CRYING RESIDENTS 

"We don't have water, electricity or heating since January 19th," they said. "There are no more candles left in the shop," a woman cried.    

More suffering is expected as pro-Russian rebels plan to boost their fighting force to 100,000 men, while Kiev wants to bring the numbers in its armed forces to 200,000 by later this year.

The NATO military alliance says hundreds of Russian tanks and armoured vehicles are in east Ukraine, charges Moscow denies.  

It worries United Nations human rights chief Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein. He complained in a statement about a "clear breach of international humanitarian law which governs the conduct of armed conflicts". 

He said, "Bus stops and public transport, marketplaces, schools and kindergartens, hospitals and residential areas have become battlegrounds in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Ukraine." 

ESCALATION CONFLICT

And the chief warned that "Any further escalation will prove catastrophic for the 5.2 million people living in the midst of conflict in eastern Ukraine." 

Fatalities also include 298 people on board flight MH17 which was shot down on July 17th. 

In the last days Dutch expert discovered and secured more human remains.   

The fighting has displaced at least 921,640 within Ukraine, including 136,216 children, according to UN estimates. Some 600,000 fled to neighbouring countries of whom more than 400,000 have gone to Russia.

Over 12,000 other people have been wounded in the fighting and aid workers fear many more casualties as peace talks broke-off over the weekend.   

(from Vatican Radio)