In recent weeks, a devastating flurry of Russian missile and drone attacks on Ukraine has sparked a humanitarian crisis, resulting in a significant increase in civilian casualties. The latest report of the United Nations Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine (HRMMU) reveals a grim reality, painting a clearer picture of the victims, mostly Ukrainian civilians.
Escalation of attacks
The HRMMU report highlights a disturbing trend, indicating a reversal of the positive trajectory witnessed earlier in 2023. In December alone, 101 Ukrainian civilians lost their lives and 491 were injured in Russian attacks.
This marked a staggering 26.5 percent increase in the number of confirmed victims month-on-month. Namely, the actual figures are believed to be higher, as many reported cases are still awaiting verification. And many who are missing are actually dead, it's just not officially confirmed.
In recent months, the Russian army has been carrying out large-scale offensive actions on most fronts, and as a result, civilian casualties have also increased. Rocket attacks by the Russian armed forces emerged as the main driver of the increase in the number of civilian casualties.
The report said attacks involving rockets accounted for 34 percent of total civilian casualties in December, a significant increase from the 16 percent recorded in November. Daniela Bell, head of HRMMU, pointed to the concentrated wave of rockets and drones on December 29 and January 2, which contributed to the highest number of civilian casualties in this period.
After the failed Ukrainian offensive, Russia became active on the front, and using missile attacks and mostly Iranian suicide drones, it also targeted places where civilians live.
Verification challenges and ongoing attacks
As HRMMU works diligently to verify reported cases, it highlights a particular interval in the few days around the new year, during which 86 people may have been killed and 416 wounded.
The mission highlights the difficulty of obtaining accurate figures due to the chaotic nature of the ongoing conflict. "The increase in civilian casualties in December was mainly caused by increased rocket attacks by Russian armed forces across Ukraine on December 29 and 30.
Attacks with these types of weapons accounted for 34 percent of civilian casualties in December, compared to 16 percent in November," the report states. Even after January 2, heavy Russian strikes continued, with a notable incident on January 6 in the small town of Pokrovsk and the nearby village of Rivne in the eastern Donetsk region.
Civilian victims were also recorded there, but in smaller numbers. It is interesting that fewer and fewer Western leaders have been speaking out about this issue since the conflict in the Gaza Strip began. Many associate it with the fact that they cannot criticize Israel for the murders and massacre of 10 thousand Palestinian children, so now they don't even want to criticize Putin.
We must mention that several hundred children were killed in Russia's aggression against Ukraine, which has been going on for 2 years, compared to 10,000 Palestinian children who were killed in just 2 months.
The report details specific tragic incidents, highlighting the human cost of the conflict.
In Pokrovsk, two families - consisting of six adults and five children - were buried under the rubble after a rocket attack on their houses. Despite extensive rescue efforts, some bodies are missing. Another heartbreaking incident occurred in Novomoskovsk on January 8, where a Russian rocket attack injured 31 civilians, including eight passengers in a minibus during their morning commute.
Among those passengers were children and teenagers, which further spoils the picture. Since the beginning of the Russian invasion, the cumulative civilian toll has been staggering. HRMMU reports a total of 29,330 confirmed civilian casualties, with 10,191 killed and 19,139 wounded.
The seriousness of the situation is further emphasized by Edem Vosornu, the operations director of the UN humanitarian office, who revealed to the UN Security Council on January 10 that at least 575 children have lost their lives since the beginning of the invasion.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, reacting to the escalation of the crisis, issued a stern warning about the possible consequences for the statehood of Ukraine. He argued that if current patterns continued, Ukrainian statehood could suffer an "irreparable blow".
Putin's statement followed Switzerland's agreement to host a global summit on Ukraine at the request of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Despite efforts by the international community to broker peace, Putin rejected what he called "so-called peace formulas" being discussed in the West and in Ukraine.
As the conflict in Ukraine escalates, the humanitarian toll is reaching alarming proportions. The UN report sheds light on the escalation of civilian casualties, with rocket attacks and drone strikes contributing significantly to the grim statistics.
International pressure and diplomatic initiatives must be redoubled to bring about an end to hostilities and pave the way for sustainable and just peace in the region. But nowadays and with this geopolitical situation in the world, no one believes in such speeches anymore.
The entire international order and international law have been destroyed, and the future has never been more uncertain. We should ask ourselves how we imperceptibly came to such a disappointing state of affairs in the world.