Amnesty International Has Collected Evidence of Civilian Deaths
In the following report, Amnesty International points out the precarious humanitarian condition in the Donbas and presents evidence of many civilian deaths.
An Amnesty International researcher on the ground in eastern Ukraine has gathered gruesome evidence of civilian deaths and casualties inflicted by both sides in the bloody conflict in the towns of Donetsk and Debaltseve over the last few days.
The evidence was collected on the spot in the immediate aftermath of shelling and includes interviews with eyewitnesses and casualties in hospital.
The reported violations include an attack on a humanitarian aid line, a market place in Donetsk and indiscriminate shelling of homes and streets in Debaltseve.
“This evidence reveals the horror of the bloodshed suffered by civilians, who are being killed and injured because both sides are firing unguided rockets and mortars in heavily populated areas. Such attacks are a violation of international humanitarian law and may amount to war crimes,” said John Dalhuisen, Europe and Central Asia Director at Amnesty International.
The recent serious upsurge in fighting in several areas of eastern Ukraine, including in rebel-held Donetsk and government-held Debaltseve, has inflicted a high cost on the civilian population. More than 25 civilians have been killed in eastern Ukraine since Thursday.
Six people died on 30 January in Donetsk when a mortar hit people waiting in line for humanitarian aid. Five of them died on the spot, one died later in hospital and many more were injured.
Thousands of civilians are trapped in Debaltseve, a strategic railway junction and the Ukrainian forces’ stronghold, under constant shelling by the pro-Russian separatists attempting to take control. This town has seen some of the heaviest shelling in the last two weeks.
The population of 25,000 has dwindled to about 7,000, sources told Amnesty International on the ground. Ukrainian forces claim to have evacuated more than 2,000 people since 28 January and 269 people on 1 February. While they were evacuating a group of 26 people, eight of them were wounded, including five civilians and two rescue workers.
The only road out of town is being shelled constantly and this makes the escape of the remaining citizens even more dangerous.
The violence is exacerbating the already dire humanitarian situation in the region. Many residents of targeted areas sleep at night in their basements or crowded, ad hoc underground shelters, seeking a modicum of protection from the relentless shelling and rocket attacks. Some lack basic services such as running water and there is not enough food or medical supplies.
According to UN estimates, the conflict in eastern Ukraine has claimed more than 5,100 lives and displaced more than 900,000 people since it began in April 2014.
Meanwhile, an attempt to reopen peace talks in neighbouring Belarus appears to have fallen apart, with top separatist leaders failing to attend, and both sides’ negotiators trading accusations.