Ukraine death toll rises to more than 4,300 despite ceasefire

Fighting in eastern Ukraine has killed an average of 13 people each day in the eight weeks since the ceasefire agreement, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein said

Ukraine death toll rises to more than 4,300 despite ceasefire

World Bulletin/News Desk

The death rate in the Ukraine conflict has increased in the past eight weeks despite the declaration of a ceasefire in September, the United Nations said on Thursday.

In total, more than 4,300 combatants and civilians have been killed in eastern Ukraine since pro-Russian rebels seized border regions in April. Nearly a million people have fled the area, with a surge in the past two months, the U.N. said.

Since a formal ceasefire was agreed by Ukraine, Russia and the rebels in early September, an average of 13 soldiers, rebels, and civilians had died every day, a report by U.N. human rights monitors said.

The previous report issued on Oct. 8 had put the daily death toll at 10.

"Respect for the ceasefire has been sporadic at best, with continued outbreaks of fighting and shelling resulting in an average of 13 people a day being killed during the first eight weeks of the ceasefire," the report said.

There was a total breakdown of law and order in the two rebel self-proclaimed states around the cities of Donetsk and Lugansk, with people at the mercy of armed militants, it said.

It also cited credible reports from different sources of "hundreds of people in military-style clothing" moving back and forth across the Ukraine-Russia border in recent weeks.

"The continuing presence of a large amount of sophisticated weaponry, as well as foreign fighters that include servicemen from the Russian Federation, directly affects the human rights situation," the report said.

It did not specifically say the servicemen were Russian troops. Russia denies it has forces in Ukraine, saying only "off-duty" soldiers may be there.

Schools in rebel-controlled areas, which call themselves the Donetsk and Lugansk People's Republics, now only teach in Russian, a violation of the rights of Ukrainian-speaking children, it said.

U.N. official Gianni Magazzeni told a news conference that the numbers of people who had fled the east into other parts of Ukraine had surged over the past two months from around 275,000 to 467,000. More than 500,000 are reported to have gone to Russia.

PEACE?

Prospects for peace in eastern Ukraine are "bleak", underscoring the need to uphold a shaky ceasefire between government forces and pro-Russian separatist rebels, a senior official from the OSCE security watchdog said on Thursday

Swiss diplomat Heidi Tagliavini, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's envoy to the Trilateral Contact Group that includes senior representatives from Ukraine and Russia, said there was no alternative to peace accords signed in Minsk in September, no matter how dire the situation.

"Whatever (their) shortcomings may be and wherever they may need to be supplemented, the (Minsk) documents are the door on the road to peace in eastern Ukraine, and they will continue to be so," she told a meeting of the 57-member OSCE in Vienna.

"I am unable to accept any remarks that the ceasefire arrangements of Minsk have fallen apart. Yes, it has been broken many times but it is the only agreement in place which has any restraining power on the use of force."

Tagliavini said the situation had not improved since world leaders met last weekend in Australia, where they threatened Russian President Vladimir Putin with more sanctions. Fighting continues at key locations including Donetsk airport and the outskirts of the coastal city of Mariupol.

She said the conflict could escalate, with severe consequences for the region and beyond, if not handled with care. "The outlook is still bleak," she added, citing reports of a new military buildup in the conflict zone.

Ukraine has accused Russia of violating the Minsk accord by failing to stop arms and fighters crossing into its territory, supplying the separatists with weapons and keeping Russian forces in Ukraine. Moscow denies these charges.

Russia is pressing Ukraine to hold direct talks with separatist leaders, but Kiev is refusing, saying this would imply recognition of 'people's republics' they have set up in eastern Ukraine. "We will not hold direct talks with your mercenaries," Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk said on Wednesday.

Last Mod: 20 Kasım 2014, 16:12
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