The actual number of casualties in the armed conflict in east Ukraine is unclear, but thanks to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) we now have a minimum figure.
HRI contacted the OHCHR following a Reuters report published yesterday (13/08/2014).
Cécile Pouilly, a spokesperson of the OHCHR has confirmed to HRI that:
– At least 2,086 people have been killed and at least 4,953 wounded in the fighting in east Ukraine since mid-April until 10 August. Please note that these totals include Ukrainian armed forces, civilians and armed groups – we have no breakdown by nationality or any additional information at this stage.
– The casualties for the Ukraine armed forces are as reported by the Council for National Security and Defence. Other casualties are reported by civil medical establishments (those casualties delivered to hospitals and morgues). These latter casualties include civilians as well as members of the armed groups, for which no total losses are known.
In her statement to Reuters, Cécile Pouilly is quoted as saying the figures given are “very conservative.”
It is unclear how accurate are the figures for Ukraine’s armed forces. The Ukrainian Council for Security and Defence is the highest state body dealing with security and defence in Ukraine and had as its Secretary Andriy Parubiy, one of the founders of the neo-Nazi Social National Party until he resigned on 7th August 2014.
As for the civilian numbers, it seems certain that the real figures are higher, as an unknown number of victims will not have been delivered to hospitals or mortuaries.
Ukrainian forces and (in some cases openly neo-Nazi) pro-government militias have been firing unguided Grad rockets into heavily populated civilian areas as well as bombing civilian buildings from the air.
The tactics employed strongly suggest that the targets of the so-called “ATO” include the civilian population of east Ukraine, as much as the separatist militias. It is therefore not surprising that, according to Russian figures quoted by the UNHCR, “more than 700,000 people have crossed the border with Ukraine this year, including some 180,000 who have approached the FMS [Federal Migration Service] to seek refugee status, temporary asylum, citizenship, temporary residence, residence permits or resettlement.”
Update 19/08/2014 Link to an article which suggests Ukrane’s official figures understate the real situation, with the families of missing soldiers getting increasingly angry.
Update 24/08/2014 Link to a Vice News article from Lugansk which provides additional information about the treatment of bodies, the lack of refrigeration and the likelihood many (perhaps most) casualities do not make it to the morgue.
Update 28/08/2014 The UN have issued a new (somewhat biased) report which gives some figures suggesting 36 deaths a day.