The head of the UN human rights monitoring mission in Ukraine has warned that the civilian death toll in Ukraine is thousands higher than the official toll of 3,381, with deaths in the port city of Mariupol alone likely to add significantly to the total.
“We have been working on estimates, but all I can say for now is that it is thousands higher than the numbers we have currently given to you,” Matilda Bogner, the head of the UN human rights monitoring mission in Ukraine, told a press briefing in Geneva, when asked about the total number of deaths and injuries.
“The big black hole is really Mariupol, where it has been difficult for us to fully access and to get fully corroborated information,” she said.
As both Ukrainian and Russian military officials claimed advances in the battles for the country’s south and east, dominated by a 300-mile-long frontline, the latest phase of the campaign appeared to have settled for now into a grim back and forth struggle over shell smashed villages and small towns.
In the Kharkiv area in particular, the conflict has turned into a long-range shelling war between the two sides. After unexpectedly fierce resistance forced the Kremlin to abandon its effort to storm Kyiv more than a month ago, Moscow’s forces have concentrated on capturing the Donbas, Ukraine’s eastern industrial region.
The warning was delivered as dozens more bodies were discovered in the ruins of a burnt out and collapsed five-storey building in the Kharkiv region, and as the UN migration agency said 8 million people were internally displaced inside Ukraine by the conflict.
Further west, Ukraine’s vital Black Sea port of Odesa came under repeated missile attack, after Russia marked its biggest patriotic holiday without giving new information about the war.