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UN: Civilians suffering 'abandonment' and despair in eastern Ukraine

The United Nations has said the conflict in eastern Ukraine has left millions of civilians suffering from despair and isolation. The assessment comes as foreign ministers hold talks over a ceasefire in the region.

Despite a lull in hostilities, the conflict in eastern Ukraine is continuing to "significantly affect" people living in the main fighting areas, the UN human rights office said in a report on Thursday.

"There is a terrible sensation of physical, political, social and economic isolation and abandonment among the huge number of people - more than 3 million in all - who are struggling to eke out a living," UN human rights chief Zeid Raad al-Hussein said.

In its report, the UN said scores of homes had been damaged in the conflict zone, where municipal utilities had essentially ceased to function and food and water supplies were hard to come by. Civilians in rebel-held areas were also facing arbitrary detentions and torture, it said.

"I am particularly concerned by ... the complete absence of due process and rule of law in territories under the control of the armed groups," al-Hussein said.

Resumption of talks

The report was published as foreign ministers from Ukraine and Russia were due to hold talks in Paris aimed to move towards a political solution to the conflict. The negotiations, brokered by Germany and France, are expected to address Ukraine's ability to fulfill the conditions of a ceasefire agreement signed by Moscow and Kyiv in Minsk last year. The deal included a requirement that Ukraine grant more autonomy to the two eastern-most regions of the country where pro-Russian separatists have been fighting Ukrainian government forces since mid-2014.

Zeid said full implementation of the Minsk pact was crucial "for resolving the human rights crisis in Ukraine" and that civilians were "in urgent need of greater protection and support."

The UN said 9,160 people have been killed and around 21,000 injured since the conflict erupted nearly two years ago.

nm/sms (AFP, dpa)

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