KYIV, 8 May 2020

All parties involved in hostilities in Donetsk and Luhansk regions should make the protection of civilians an absolute priority, said Matilda Bogner, Head of the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine, noting a sharp increase in the number of civilian casualties in early May.

“To a greater extent, my appeal is addressed to the command of the Joint Forces Operation of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, since all new civilian casualties recorded by the Mission in May, occurred in territory controlled by the self-proclaimed ‘republics’,” stressed Bogner. “In absence of a sustainable ceasefire, it is also essential that parties do not place their military positions, weapons and personnel in residential areas,” she added.

From 1 to 6 May alone, the Mission recorded 11 new civilian casualties (one killed and six injured as a result of shelling and small arms and light weapons fire, one injured in a mine incident, and one killed and two injured as a result of handling of an explosive remnant of war). They include incidents in Zolote (Luhansk region) on 2 May, and in Oleksandrivka (Donetsk region) on 4 May, when four girls (one born in 2010 and three born in 2013) were injured as a result of shelling and light weapons fire.

“On 7 May, we received reports of eight new civilian casualties caused by light weapons fire in Holubivske (Luhansk region) and Sakhanka (Donetsk region), both controlled by the self-proclaimed ‘republics’. Reportedly, a girl and a boy born in 2006 were among the victims. Our Mission is working to corroborate these reports. If they are confirmed, the number of civilian casualties during the first week of May will have reached nineteen. This will be the highest weekly figure of civilian casualties for the last two years,” said Bogner.

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If these eight new casualties are confirmed, the total number of civilian casualties this year will have reached 65 (nine killed and 56 injured), which is more than a third higher than the number of civilian casualties during the same period of 2019 (ten killed and 38 injured). “This will be reversing the positive trend we had seen up until now of a reduction in civilian casualties,” Bogner noted.

“I am particularly concerned that there are many children among those injured,” she added. If two child injuries in Sakhanka are confirmed, that would bring the total number of civilian casualties among children from 1 January to 7 May 2020 to ten (all in territory controlled by the self-proclaimed ‘republics’): six girls and three boys injured by shelling and light weapons fire, and one boy injured as a result of the handling of an explosive remnant of war.

“It will be important for the next meeting of the Trilateral Contact Group to pay due attention to the current situation,” Bogner noted. “Civilians are not a target, and the responsibility to uphold this principle rests not only with the military, but also with politicians,” she concluded.