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Ukraine death toll climbs despite truce

November 20, 2014

The death rate in eastern Ukraine has increased in the last month, as the September ceasefire agreement remains shaky, the UN says. A new report says almost 1,000 people have been killed in the past eight weeks.

Ukraine Donetsk
Image: Menahem Kahana/AFP/Getty Images

According to the report released by the United Nations on Thursday, 957 people, including civilians, Ukrainian soldiers and pro-Russia separatist combatants, were killed in the period since a truce agreement was signed in Minsk on September 5, to November 18.

"Respect for the ceasefire has been sporadic at best," UN Human Rights Commissioner Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein said.

On average, 13 people have died per day in continued outbreaks of fighting and shelling. A previous report in October put the daily death toll at 10.

In total, more than 4,317 people have died since the conflict between Ukraine's army and the separatists broke out in Ukraine's east in April - meaning that the casualty rate has fallen since the introduction of the ceasefire.

That figure includes the 298 people killed when Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 went down in the region in July. Almost 10,000 people have been wounded, according to the UN figures, which the report's writers described as a very conservative estimate.

Human rights abuses

The UN report also said serious human rights abuses were reported on both sides in the drawn-out battle for territory.

Examples include a report from a Ukrainian soldier that separatists chopped off his right arm, on which he had "Glory to Ukraine" tattooed, with an ax. A separatist who had been detained by Ukrainian forces said he had been suffocated with a plastic bag and beaten repeatedly.

There were reports of cluster munitions being used, something the UN said needed to be urgently and thoroughly investigated.

Since the truce, the number of people to flee from the east into other parts of Ukraine has surged from about 275,000 to 467,000. About half a million people are reported to have fled to Russia.

Due to the conflict, relations between Russia and the West have sunk to their lowest point since the Cold War. Kyiv and many Western nations accuse Moscow of aiding the separatists with weapons and fighters, something Russia has always denied.

Observers shot at

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) also reported that members of its international observer team, who are monitoring the ceasefire, were shot at on Thursday.

The OSCE said one of two uniformed man on the back of a truck fired twice in the direction of their vehicles near the town of Mariinka, which is controlled by the government and lies about 15 kilometers (9 miles) west of separatist-held Donetsk.

The OSCE, which has copped criticism from both the Ukrainian military and Moscow, did not say where the two men were from.

se/msh (Reuters, AFP, AP)

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