By Beyza Binnur Donmez
GENEVA (AA) - "Severe violations" of human rights and international humanitarian law have become "shockingly routine" in Russia's war on Ukraine, the UN's human rights chief said on Friday.
More than 8,400 civilian deaths have been confirmed since the beginning of the war started in February last year, while over 14,000 civilians wounded, Volker Turk told the Human Rights Council, sharing data verified by his office.
"These figures are just the tip of the iceberg," Turk warned.
Throughout the war, the Human Rights Office documented numerous summary executions and targeted assaults by Russian military forces against civilians in occupied regions of Ukraine, including by associated armed groups like Wagner, he said, adding that 621 instances of arbitrary detention and forced disappearances had been also recorded.
On the torture and ill-treatment of detainees, he said Russian personnel were responsible for 91% of such incidents, according to interviews with 89 civilians.
"Five of the victims of enforced disappearance were boys, one only 14 years old. All five of these children were tortured or ill-treated," he said.
Of the 109 cases of sexual violence by Russian personnel that were documented, "most took place in places of detention," he noted and underlined that three of them were perpetrated against girls under the age of 18.
On the Ukrainian side, Turk said his staff documented 91 cases of enforced disappearances and arbitrary detention by Ukrainian security forces.
Of the 73 victims interviewed, 53% were tortured or ill-treated, while 24 cases of sexual violence were by Ukrainian personnel. "Most of these consisted of threats of sexual violence during initial stages of detention," he said.
Turk stressed that more than 400 prisoners of war on both sides had been interviewed by his staff, with more than 90% of Ukrainian prisoners of war saying they were tortured or ill-treated. For Russian prisoners of war, this figure stands at 50%.
"We also continue to gather and analyze information about the devastating incident in Olenivka, in July 2022, in which at least 50 Ukrainian prisoners of war were killed," he added.
- Black Sea grain deadline
Turk also turned to the global economic impacts of the war, stressing that the "most severe global cost-of-living crisis in a generation" was harming the lives and livelihoods of an estimated 1.6 billion people
Noting that the crisis had pushed more than 71 million people into poverty, he said this situation "threatens the stability of many countries."
"It is essential to the lives of tens of millions of people around the world that the Black Sea grain initiative continues to provide support to global food security — well beyond the current cut-off point in May 2023," added the UN human rights chief.
He underlined that his office would continue to do its "utmost" to monitor, document and report the conditions that hundreds of thousands of people on the ground are forced to endure.
Last July, Türkiye, the UN, Russia, and Ukraine signed a deal in Istanbul to resume grain exports from three Ukrainian Black Sea ports which were paused after the Russia-Ukraine war began in February 2022.