Friday, 07 July 2023 17:16

‘Grim milestone’ as Ukraine war reaches 500-day mark

© IOM/Marco Chimenton
A destroyed building in Trostianets, in the Sumy region of northern Ukraine.

The UN deplored the horrendous civilian cost of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which reached the 500-day mark on Friday.

The war began on 24 February 2022, and the UN’s Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine (HRMMU) has confirmed that more than 9,000 civilians, including over 500 children, have been killed since then, though the real number could be much higher.

“Today we mark another grim milestone in the war that continues to exact a horrific toll on Ukraine’s civilians,” said Noel Calhoun, deputy head of the Mission.

Recent deadly attacks

The HRMMU reported that overall monthly casualties decreased earlier this year when compared to 2022, but the average number rose again in May and June, with the last two weeks among some of the deadliest since fighting began.


Recent attacks include the missile strike on a busy shopping area in the eastern city of Kramatorsk on the evening of 27 June, which killed 13 people.

Among the victims was award-winning writer and human rights defender Viktoriia Amelina, who succumbed to her injuries earlier this week.

Just days after the attack, 10 civilians were killed in another missile strike in Lviv, located in western Ukraine.

Thousands of casualties

The information about civilian deaths is contained in the latest report on civilian casualties in Ukraine, published by the UN Human Rights Office, OHCHR, which covers the period from the start of the war through 30 June 2023.

Overall, 25,170 civilian casualties were recorded, with 9,177 killed and 15,993 injured.

Of this number, and whose sex was known, 61 per cent were men and 39 per cent were women. Boys comprised more than 57 per cent of casualties among children whose sex was known, and girls 42.8 per cent.

OHCHR also received information regarding 22 civilian casualties in Russian-occupied Crimea and the city of Sevastopol. They included five men and one woman who were killed, and 16 people who were injured – two children and 14 adults, whose sex is yet unknown.

Nuclear power plant update

Meanwhile, experts deployed by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) at the Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP) in southern Ukraine have not observed any visible indications of mines or explosives there, Director-General Rafael Mariano Grossi said on Wednesday.

Europe’s largest nuclear plant has been in Russian hands since the early days of the war, and both sides have accused the other of shelling the facility.

The IAEA had previously indicated that it was aware of reports that mines and other explosives have been placed in and around the plant, which is located on the frontline of the conflict.

“Following our requests, our experts have gained some additional access at the site. So far, they have not seen any mines or explosives, but they still need more access, including to the rooftops of reactor units 3 and 4 and parts of the turbine halls,” Mr. Grossi said, expressing hope that access will be granted soon.

The experts have inspected parts of the plant in recent days and weeks, and continued to conduct regular walkdowns across the site.

On Wednesday, they were “also able to check a wider section of the perimeter of the ZNPP’s large cooling pond than previously”, the IAEA said.