UN Report Uncovers Abuses, Violations in E. Ukraine

UN Report Uncovers Abuses, Violations in E. UkraineUN Report Uncovers Abuses, Violations in E. Ukraine

The United Nations on Monday released a damning report accusing Ukrainian forces and pro-Russia rebels of torturing and indiscriminately shelling civilians in the bloody conflict in the separatist east.

The UN estimates the eight-month conflict has killed at least 4,634 and wounded 10,234 people -- although Monday’s survey said “the actual numbers of casualties is likely to be considerably higher,” the AFP reported.

And it said the lives of 5.2 million residents living in the devastated region was deteriorating further with the onset of winter and a complete breakdown of local infrastructure that left homes without water or heat.

The “situation is becoming extremely dire for the population, particularly older persons, children and people in institutional care, many of whom are on the brink of survival,” the United Nations’ human rights office said.

But the 27-page UN study was careful to assign blame for the humanitarian crisis on both the pro-Western government in Kiev and the mostly Russian-speaking insurgents who rose up in April against its rule.

“The efforts of the government to safeguard the territorial integrity of Ukraine and restore law and order in the conflict zone have been accompanied by arbitrary detentions, torture, and enforced disappearances of people suspected of ‘separatism and terrorism’,” the report said.

“Most of such human rights violations appear to have been perpetrated by certain voluntary battalions or by the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU).”

Rights groups believe that some of the gravest crimes are being committed by Ukrainian ultra-nationalist volunteers who joined the fighting after taking an active part in last winter’s popular uprising in Kiev.

Moscow also accuses the SBU -- Ukraine’s chief successor to the Soviet-era KGB -- of abducting rebel sympathizers and detaining without charges Russian reporters covering the war.

The UN report also pointed to “limited progress” by Kiev in investigating more than 300 cases of indiscriminate shelling of residential areas identified by foreign monitors since the start of the year.