Death toll in east Ukraine conflict nears 2,600: UN
The conflict raging in eastern Ukraine has killed nearly 2,600 people, the United Nations said Friday, voicing concern about atrocities committed by armed groups and the increasing involvement of foreign fighters.
A UN human rights report said the surging toll was caused by the fighting moving into densely populated areas of the country.
The number of people who have fled their homes has reached at least 430,000, according to UN figures, with almost half heading to Russia.
It said at least 2,593 people including at least 23 children, have been killed in Ukraine between mid-April when the conflict erupted and August 27, with another 5,956 injured.
The death toll would be close to 3,000 if the 298 victims of the MH17 crash in July were included, the UN Assistant Secretary General for Human Rights Ivan Simonovic said as he presented the findings in Kiev.
In a grim sign of the growing human cost of the fighting, the United Nations said the number of people killed each day has risen to 36.
"Especially concerning is the alleged increased participation of foreign fighters in the hostilities, which further fuels the conflict," Simonovic said, though he cautioned that rights monitors were not in a position to provide military analysis.
The report said at least 468 people were still being held in captivity by the pro-Russian rebels, who are "putting civilian population at risk" by basing their positions in and attacking from densely populated areas, particularly in the cities of Lugansk and Donetsk.
"Armed groups continued to commit killings, abductions, physical and psychological torture," the report said.
It noted however that pro-Kiev volunteer battalions may also be guilty of rights violations such as arbitrary detentions and torture and that such reports must be investigated.
The conflict will leave "deep psychological scars" on people in affected areas who will need psychological assistance, the report said.
The conflict has deepened the divide in Ukrainian society, Simonovic said.
"What I am seeing is that due to escalation of the hostilities, the divide is deepening. That should be stopped."
© 2014 AFP