Russian ground forces regroup as western Ukraine comes under attack for the first time

The casing of a Russian rocket capable of carrying cluster munitions is seen east of the strategic Ukrainian port city of Mykolaiv on March 10. NATO says Russia is using cluster bombs in its assault on Ukraine. (Scott Peterson/Getty Images)

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights said on Friday it remained “gravely concerned about the increasing death toll and human suffering in Ukraine” and called for “an immediate end to the attacks”. .

“Civilians are being killed and maimed in what appear to be indiscriminate attacks, with Russian forces using explosive weapons with a wide area of ​​effect in or near populated areas. These include missiles, shells, heavy artillery and rockets, as well as airstrikes,” spokeswoman Liz Throssell said. said in a statement.

The OHCHR said it had recorded 549 civilian deaths and 957 civilian injuries since the start of the invasion, “although the true figure may be much higher”.

Schools, hospitals and kindergartens have been affected, with extremely devastating consequences,” Throssell said.

On March 3, 47 civilians were killed when Russian airstrikes hit two schools and several buildings in Chernihiv and on March 9, a Russian airstrike hit a hospital in Mariupol injuring at least 17 civilians, she added. .

“We are still investigating reports that at least three civilians may have been killed in the airstrike.”

Sources in Mariupol, Throssell added, said the hospital was “both clearly identifiable and operational when hit”.

OHCHR also received “credible reports of multiple instances of Russian forces’ use of cluster munitions, including in populated areas,” Throssell said.

The use of a cluster munition was reported on February 24 at the central hospital in Vuhledar, Donetsk, killing four civilians and injuring 10. At least nine other civilians were killed and 37 injured in “d “other cluster munitions attacks” in several districts of Kharkiv, she said.

“Because of their widespread effects, the use of cluster munitions in populated areas is inconsistent with the principles of international humanitarian law governing the conduct of hostilities,” Throssell said.

“The number of civilian casualties is increasing every day, as is human suffering in general. We remind the Russian authorities that directing attacks against civilians and civilian objects, as well as so-called area bombardments in towns and villages and other forms of indiscriminate attacks, are prohibited by international law and may constitute war crimes,” she added.

The OHCHR, she added, was also concerned about reports of “arbitrary arrests and detentions” of Ukrainians who expressed opposition to the Russian attack, including during peaceful protests.

“We believe that those detained are at risk of being tortured or ill-treated and call for their immediate and unconditional release.”

OHCHR is also concerned “about the pejorative use of labels such as ‘saboteurs’ and ‘mercenaries’, with the intent or effect of placing certain individuals at higher risk of harm”, it said. she declared.

“We call on the parties to fully respect the rights of everyone under their control,” Throssell said. “Those who have laid down their arms…including prisoners of war, must be treated humanely and protected from any form of torture or degrading treatment.”

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