Global perspective Human stories

Ukraine: Civilians endure ‘unbearable’ toll amid ‘unrelenting’ attacks

Many civilians died in the village of Hroza in eastern Ukraine following an attack.
© UNOCHA/Saviano Abreu
Many civilians died in the village of Hroza in eastern Ukraine following an attack.

Ukraine: Civilians endure ‘unbearable’ toll amid ‘unrelenting’ attacks

Peace and Security

Senior UN officials on Monday strongly condemned recent Russian attacks on Ukrainian towns and civilian infrastructure, emphasizing the need for accountability for those harming civilians during hostilities.

On Thursday, 5 October, an attack in the village of Hroza in the Kharkiv region resulted in the deaths of at least 52 people, including one child. This incident marked one of the deadliest attacks on civilians since Russia’s invasion in February last year.

Less than 24 hours later, the region faced another strike, as missiles hit buildings in Kharkiv’s city centre, reportedly killing two, including one child.

Civilian casualties

“The recent attacks in Kharkiv add to an already unbearable toll of civilian casualties resulting from Russia’s invasion – a war launched in violation of the UN Charter and international law,” Rosemary A. DiCarlo, UN Under-Secretary-General for political affairs, told ambassadors at the Security Council.

Tweet URL

As of Sunday (8 October), the UN human rights office, OHCHR, had verified 9,806 civilian deaths, including 560 children, and 17,962 injuries due to the war.

“The actual figures are very likely considerably higher and, tragically, will continue to rise if current patterns continue,” Ms. DiCarlo added.

Indiscriminate attacks

In recent weeks, civilians and civilian infrastructure, including grain storage facilities, across Ukraine have been under nearly constant attacks.

“Residents of Kherson, Zaporizhzhia, Dnipro, Lviv, Sumy, Donetsk, Odesa, Kyiv and other regions continued to face unrelenting and often indiscriminate attacks.”

These, combined with Russia’s withdrawal from the Black Sea Initiative, not only endanger the livelihoods of Ukrainian farmers, but also risk exacerbating hunger worldwide, she said.

Grim human rights picture

Ms. DiCarlo informed the Security Council of the findings of a UN human rights office report that “paints a grim picture of serious human rights violations across the country, most of them attributed to the Russian armed forces.”

These violations include conflict-related sexual violence reportedly committed by Russian armed forces and penitentiary service members, as well as arbitrary and incommunicado detention of civilians in Russian-occupied territory.

The Office also documented cases of arbitrary detention by Ukrainian forces, primarily of law enforcement authorities.

Russia’s obligation

OHCHR expressed concern over recent legislation in Russia that could effectively grant amnesty to its service members for a wide range of crimes, potentially including serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian laws, Ms. DiCarlo noted.

She reiterated Russia’s obligation under international law to investigate and prosecute potential war crimes and gross human rights violations committed by its forces in Ukraine.

Attacks against aid workers

Joyce Msuya, Deputy UN Emergency Relief Coordinator, also briefed the 15-member Security Council, highlighting aid efforts to support people amidst “atrocious attacks”.

However, it is not only civilians who are paying the price, she said, noting a dramatic rise in attacks against humanitarians, with 11 aid workers reportedly killed in 2023, up from four the previous year.

“I have deep appreciation of their bravery, endurance and commitment to the response in extremely challenging circumstances. However, there is much more to do,” she said.

The senior UN relief official urged the international community to help advocate access to all those in need across Ukraine, including four million people living in areas under the military control of Russia.

“More than anything, the people of Ukraine need concerted action to make this devastating war – with its unceasing death, destruction and suffering – come to an end,” she said.