UN reports alarming rise in Ukrainian civilian casualties due to Russian air strikes

According to the OHCHR, at least 436 civilians were killed and 1,760 injured during this three-month span.

The United Nations Human Rights Office (OHCHR) has highlighted a significant increase in civilian casualties in Ukraine, primarily attributed to Russia’s escalated use of powerful air-dropped bombs. The report, covering the period from March to May 2023, paints a grim picture of the conflict’s impact on non-combatants.

According to the OHCHR, at least 436 civilians were killed and 1,760 injured during this three-month span. However, the actual toll is likely much higher, given limited access to frontline areas and Russian-occupied territories, as well as pending corroboration of some reported casualties.

The Russian offensive in the Kharkiv region alone accounted for 78 civilian deaths and 305 injuries in just three weeks from May 10-31, underscoring the intensity of the conflict in certain areas.

The report reveals that an overwhelming 96% of civilian casualties were caused by explosive weapons with wide area effects used in populated areas. These include artillery shells, rockets, bombs, missiles, and loitering munitions deployed by unmanned aerial vehicles.

Beyond the immediate human toll, the OHCHR noted extensive damage to civilian property and infrastructure, particularly in areas close to the front lines. This destruction compounds the humanitarian crisis, disrupting access to essential services and complicating recovery efforts in affected regions.

The findings come at a critical juncture in the conflict, with both sides intensifying their military efforts. Ukraine has recently received fresh Western munitions, while Russia continues to leverage its air superiority in frontline assaults.

International reaction to the report has been swift, with human rights organizations calling for increased protection of civilians in conflict zones. The European Union, currently in talks with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy about a potential security pact, is likely to factor these findings into ongoing discussions.

The full OHCHR report is scheduled to be presented to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on July 9, where it is expected to spark renewed debate on the international community’s role in mitigating civilian harm in the ongoing conflict.

As the war in Ukraine approaches its 17th month, this latest UN report serves as a stark reminder of the conflict’s devastating impact on ordinary citizens. It underscores the urgent need for diplomatic efforts to end hostilities and for all parties to adhere to international humanitarian law in protecting civilian lives and infrastructure.