Nearly 1,000 people have been killed in conflict-torn Ukraine since a tattered truce was signed in September while the number of people displaced has nearly doubled, the United Nations said Thursday.
On average 13 people have been killed each day during the first eight weeks of the September 5 ceasefire, with a total of 957 deaths recorded up to November 18, the UN rights agency said.
The number of people registered as displaced within Ukraine soared from 275,489 in mid-September to 466,829 on Wednesday, it added.
Counting the 298 people who died in the downing of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 over Ukraine in July, the overall toll since mid-April stands at 4,317 deaths as of Tuesday, the UN rights office said.
Nearly 1,200 of those killed were Ukrainian troops, while more than 1,700 civilians and members of armed groups had been killed in Donetsk, including 22 children, and more than 850 civilians and rebels had been killed in Lugansk, including 14 children, the report said.
In all, 9,921 have been injured in the conflict-hit area of eastern Ukraine, the report said.
This is “a conservative estimate”, the report said, adding that “the actual number of fatalities may be much higher.”
– Foreign fighters –
In their seventh report, the 35-strong UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine described “the total breakdown of law and order.”
They warned that an influx of sophisticated weapons and foreign fighters, including Russian troops, was having a devastating impact on the human rights situation in the country.
Between September 24 and October 31, observers with the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, OSCE, had spotted 2,751 people in military-style clothing crossing two border crossings with Russia in both directions, the report said.
The UN rights monitors meanwhile detailed numerous serious human rights abuses by armed groups, including torture, arbitrary and secret detention, summary executions, forced labour and widespread sexual violence.
One Ukrainian soldier said his right arm, bearing a “Glory to Ukraine” tatoo, had been chopped off with an axe by rebels, while another said rebels in Donetsk had “started cutting off his ear”.
In territories under the control of the self-proclaimed separatist people’s republics of Donetsk and Lugansk the “violations are of a systematic nature and may amount to crimes against humanity,” the report warned.
– Reports of mass graves –
Ukrainian troops too are committing numerous violations, according to the report.
One Donetsk rebel detained by Ukrainian forces said he had been suffocated with a plastic bag and repeatedly beaten.
The report meanwhile decried the use of cluster munitions in both urban and rural areas — a violation of international humanitarian law and possibly a “war crime”.
The UN rights monitors also detailed reports of mass graves, including one at a mine near the village of Nyzhnya Krynka east of the separatist-controlled city of Donetsk containing the bodies of four people who had allegedly been summarily executed.
They demanded an investigation and insisted “all measures should be taken for the preservation of evidence.”
The violence was forcing ever more people to flee their homes, the report said, pointing out that on average more than 2,000 new internally displaced people were registered each day since mid-September.
In addition to the nearly 467,000 people displaced inside Ukraine, the report said 459,339 people had fled the country, with 387,355 of them crossing into Russia, as of October 24.