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Ukraine: Concerns mount over influx of weapons and growing civilian casualties

A woman walks past destroyed apartment buildings and vehicles in Chernihiv, Ukraine.
© UNICEF/Ashley Gilbertson VII Photo
A woman walks past destroyed apartment buildings and vehicles in Chernihiv, Ukraine.

Ukraine: Concerns mount over influx of weapons and growing civilian casualties

Peace and Security

The protection of civilians should remain the top priority amid the continued full-scale invasion of Ukraine by Russia, and strict control over weapons supplies is needed to prevent diversion, the UN disarmament chief told the Security Council on Thursday.

Since her last briefing in May, said Izumi Nakamitsu, the High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, reports from open sources indicate an influx in the transfer of heavy conventional weapons, including battle tanks, combat aircraft, artillery and missile systems.

“There are reports that the supply of arms and ammunition has accelerated and expanded ahead of the reported counteroffensive by Ukrainian forces,” she noted. 

Ms. Nakamitsu added that there were also alarming accounts of weapons transfers to the Russian armed forces for use in Ukraine, including uncrewed combat aerial vehicles and ammunition.  

Tight control over weapons 

Highlighting the risk of diversion and insufficient control over arms supplies, the UN representative urged the implementation of measures to prevent further instability and insecurity.

She emphasized the importance of pre-transfer diversion risk assessments, end-user certificates, non-retransfer clauses, effective legal and enforcement measures, and post-shipment verifications.

She underscored the importance of supply chain transparency and information exchange covering all States involved. 

Speaking of the grave impact of the intensifying war on civilians, the High Representative said that according to the UN human rights office (OHCHR), from the beginning of the invasion in February 2022 to 18 June this year, there have been 24,862 civilian casualties in Ukraine, with 9,083 killed and 15,779 injured. 

The real figures are believed to be significantly higher, however. The majority of civilian casualties have resulted from the use of explosive weapons in populated areas, she explained.

Deadly attack in Kramatorsk

“The missile attack in central Kramatorsk on 27 June which killed 12 people is a case in point,” said Ms. Nakamitsu and reminded ambassadors of the political declaration adopted last November to strengthen the protection of civilians from the humanitarian consequences of explosives being used in urban areas. 

Apart from the loss of life and injuries, critical infrastructure and services have also become targets of relentless attacks, she said. Energy infrastructure, healthcare and educational facilities, roads, and bridges have all suffered extensive damage. Land contamination caused by mines and explosive remnants of war has rendered vast areas unusable for agriculture, while hindering the movement of people. 

“The destruction of the Kakhovka hydroelectric power plant dam is possibly the most significant incident of damage to civilian infrastructure since the start of the war,” believes Ms. Nakamitsu.

‘Take all feasible precautions’

The High Representative reminded that International humanitarian law prohibits targeting of civilians and civilian infrastructure during armed conflicts, and emphasized the need for parties involved “to take all feasible precautions in the conduct of military operations to avoid, or at least minimize, incidental loss of civilian life, injury to civilians and damage to civilian objects.” 

Reiterating the UN’s strong condemnation of attacks against civilians and civilian infrastructure, she called for their immediate cessation and reaffirmed commitment to support any meaningful efforts aimed at achieving a just and sustainable peace in Ukraine.