UN says nearly 8,000 killed in conflict in eastern Ukraine

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Close to 8,000 civilians, Ukrainian soldiers and pro-Russian separatists have been killed in the conflict in eastern Ukraine since April last year, the UN human rights office said Tuesday.

The UN said the figures of at least 7,962 people killed and 17,811 wounded were conservative estimates, and the actual numbers could be far higher.

“The shelling of residential areas on both sides of the contact line has led to a disturbing increase in the number of civilian casualties over the past three months,” said Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, the UN high commissioner for human rights.

With near-daily clashes between government forces and Moscow-backed rebels, at least 105 civilians have been killed between mid-May and mid-August, compared to 60 in the previous three months, Zeid’s office said in a report.

The document described killings, abductions, torture, sexual violence and forced labour committed in the separatist Donetsk people’s republic and Luhansk people’s republic in the east, where 3 million people live “without protection from the human rights violations and abuses of the armed groups and their supporters,” said the report.

The UN rights office also said that Ukraine’s security service was involved in a persistent pattern of incommunicado detentions that often include torture.

In Minsk, the contact group on resolving the Ukraine crisis met Tuesday and was expected to discuss a proposed withdrawal of small arms from the front lines, as well as legislation to lessen federal control over regional governments.

The meeting in the Belarusian capital was attended by representatives of the Ukrainian government and the pro-Russian separatists, as well as the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), which has been independently monitoring the conflict for the past year and a half.

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