Concern at plight of civilians and intensified Russian attacks: Ukraine


We are deeply concerned at the plight of civilians in Ukraine, particularly in the Kharkiv region, as Russian armed forces have stepped up their attacks in recent days. This assault has seized more Ukrainian territory, triggered further displacement and potentially threatens Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second largest city.

Since the latest incursion by Russian forces on 10 May, during which they took control of several small settlements, at least 6,000 people are believed to have fled or been evacuated from areas on the border. Many have reached the city of Kharkiv, which is just some 30 to 40 kilometres from the fighting.

Our human rights monitoring team in Ukraine, which is continuing to analyse information from the ground, has verified that at least eight civilians have been killed and 35 injured in the Kharkiv region since last Friday.

This follows a pattern of civilian casualties documented for April, when at least 129 civilians were killed and 574 injured, the majority amid attacks by Russian armed forces along the frontlines.

In Kharkiv region, the situation is dire, as fighting intensifies. Colleagues in Kharkiv report air raid sirens sounding almost constantly and hearing explosions in the border area and in the city itself. Continuing attacks on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure, which since March have affected millions across the country, have also meant daily power cuts in many parts of Kharkiv.

Reports indicate that in the north-eastern border city of Vovchansk, where there has been significant destruction, heavy fighting is continuing. Several hundred civilian residents out of a population of some 3,000 prior to 10 May are believed to still be there.

We are also looking into reports alleging that falling debris from an intercepted missile hit an apartment block in Belgorod in the Russian Federation, causing civilian casualties.

We once again call on the Russian Federation to immediately cease its armed attack against Ukraine – in line with the relevant resolutions of the UN General Assembly, the binding provisional measures ordered by the International Court of Justice, and with wider international law – and to withdraw to internationally recognised borders.

We also urge all parties to make every efforts to avoid or in any event minimise harm to civilians including by avoiding the use of explosive weapons with wide area effects in populated areas.

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