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UN representative: UN casualties figures 'just the tip of the iceberg'

by The Kyiv Independent news desk April 1, 2023 12:06 AM 2 min read
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The UN Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk said on March 31 that the number of civilian casualties far outstrips official figures of more than 8,400 civilians killed since Feb. 24.  

"Most of the casualties resulted from the Russian forces' use of wide-impact explosive weaponry in residential neighborhoods," he said, describing "severe violations of human rights" as "shockingly routine" since Russia launched its full-scale invasion.

Turk said the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights had documented "numerous summary executions" and attacks on civilians by Russia's military, including the Wagner mercenary group.

His office mostly documented rapes against women and underage girls in Russian-controlled areas.

Turk's office has also documented 621 cases of enforced disappearances and arbitrary detention, while interviews with 89 civilians released from detention indicated that 91% had been tortured or ill-treated by Russian personnel, including through sexual violence.

"More than 90% of Ukrainian prisoners of war that my office interviewed said that they were tortured or ill-treated, notably in penitentiary facilities, including through so-called — it is an awful phrase — 'welcoming beatings' on their arrival, as well as frequent acts of torture throughout detention," he said.

Turk's office interviewed more than 400 prisoners of war on both sides.

He said almost half of the Russian prisoners of war interviewed said they had been tortured or ill-treated, but most of these acts of torture reportedly occurred soon after capture.

He said his office didn't find "a sustained pattern of severe ill-treatment in more permanent places of internment."

Ukraine’s Prosecutor General’s Office said on March 28 that the Russian military has committed 76,753 war crimes and crimes of aggression in Ukraine since the start of Russia’s all-out war.

The number of casualties due to Russia’s war is reportedly higher as it does not include casualties in Russian-occupied territories or where intense hostilities occur.

Ukraine could create a war crimes tribunal for Russian leadership within a year to a year and a half, according to Andrii Smyrnov, deputy head of the Ukrainian president's office.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced on Nov. 30 that the EU was working on setting up an international tribunal for the Russian crime of aggression in its invasion of Ukraine.

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