Conflicts & War

Mass exodus, civilian killings, war crimes, Ukraine war a year on

By Antonio Broto

Geneva, Feb 23 (EFE).- From the mass exodus of people to the more than 8,000 recorded deaths and acts amounting to war crimes, a year of war in Ukraine has inflicted pain on civilians in a way Europe has not known in decades.

“Every day that violations of international human rights and humanitarian law continue, it becomes harder and harder to find a way forward through mounting suffering and destruction, towards peace,” UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk said in a statement as the first anniversary of the Russian invasion of Ukraine neared.

At least 8,006 civilians have been killed and 13,287 others wounded since the war began on February 24 last year, according to figures from the United Nations Human Rights Office (OHCHR), which acknowledges that the real figure could be much higher since it was difficult to estimate the number of possible victims in areas hit hard by the conflict.

In March 2022 alone, more than 3,900 people were killed and 2,900 others injured, but since then, the number has been reduced to around 200 a month between November and January.


Fourteen million people, about third of Ukraine’s pre-war population, have been driven from their homes, a steep price the war-ravaged country had to pay in the invasion. Some six million Ukrainians have been displaced internally, while eight millions others were recorded across Europe.

Since the start of the invasion, Poland has been one of the main destinations for Ukrainians, with 1.5 million refugees.

Other neighboring countries such as Romania, Moldova, and Slovakia have also welcomed many refugees but large numbers of Ukrainians have chosen to settle further west in Germany, the Czech Republic, Italy, Spain, and the United Kingdom.

“Europe has demonstrated its capacity to mobilize political will and help these refugees,” spokeswoman for the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) Louise Donovan told Efe.


Among the conflict’s open wounds is the war crimes committed against civilians by the Russian military such as summary executions and indiscriminate attacks on residential buildings, schools, hospitals and infrastructures.

Some of these acts seem to have been copied from past conflicts launched by Moscow because they are notably similar to the crimes Russia is believed to have committed in the two wars in Chechnya (1994-2000), or even before, during the intervention of the Soviet Union in Afghanistan (1979-1989).

So far, UN investigations documented at least 441 civilian killings, including 72 women and 28 children by the Russian army in Ukraine in makeshift detention centers, victims’ homes, or at security checks.

The Yablunska Street in Bucha city has become a bitter symbol of Russian atrocities. In March 2022, according to UN reports, at least 54 men, 16 women, and three children were killed there.

Other UN reports have registered other crimes committed by Russian invaders, ranging from sexual violence against children and elderly people to torturing detainees with methods that included beatings and electric shocks.


With the war still raging, the UN, NGOs and institutions such as the Council of Europe or the International Criminal Court (ICC) are working against the clock to collect testimonies from victims of war crimes.

Matilda Bogner, the head of the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine, told Efe: “Accountability is vital.”

“We hope that our conclusions help bring violation perpetrators to justice,” she added.EFE

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