Ukraine war: UN body says 8,500 civilians dead since Russian invasion

Canada imposes new sanctions on Moscow and pledges fresh military support for Kyiv

Almost 8,500 civilians are confirmed to have been killed in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, a UN body has said, with many thousands more unverified deaths feared.

The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has long described its figures as “the tip of the iceberg” because of its limited access to battle zones.

It said it had recorded 8,490 people killed and 14,244 injured since the launch of the invasion on February 24th, 2022.

The majority of the deaths were recorded in territory controlled by the Ukrainian government and under attack by Russian forces, including 3,927 people in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, where there has been intense fighting.


“OHCHR believes the actual figures are considerably higher, as the receipt of information from some locations where intense hostilities have been going on has been delayed and many reports are still pending corroboration,” it said in a statement. It singled out Mariupol (Donetsk region), Lysychansk, Popasna, and Sievierodonetsk (Luhansk region) as areas where “there are allegations of numerous civilian casualties” that remain undocumented.

Meanwhile, Canada has imposed new sanctions over Russia’s invasion and pledged fresh military support for Kyiv, Justin Trudeau said after meeting Ukrainian prime minister Denys Shmyhal in Toronto.

Canada will send 21,000 assault rifles, 38 machine guns and 2.4 million rounds of ammunition to Ukraine and impose sanctions on 14 Russian individuals and 34 entities, including security targets linked to Wagner Group, the Canadian prime minister said. “We will continue to support Ukraine with everything needed for as long as necessary,” he said.

Canada has committed more than C$8 billion (€5.4 biliion) to Ukraine in financial, military, humanitarian and other assistance since January 2022, just before the invasion began.

Canada is also imposing sanctions on nine entities tied to the Belarusian financial sector to further pressure Russia’s “enablers in Belarus,” Mr Trudeau said.

Earlier, Ukraine’s foreign minister said that US Secretary of State Antony Blinken assured him in a phone call that Washington still backed Kyiv’s effort to win the war and rejected attempts to cast doubt on its military capacity.

Dmytro Kuleba made the comment after a Washington Post report detailed a downbeat assessment by US intelligence officials of Kyiv’s potential to retake significant portions of Russian-occupied territory. Ukraine is expected to launch a counter-offensive to seize back land in the south and east of the country from Russian forces in the coming weeks or months.

“During our call today, (Blinken) reaffirmed the ironclad US support and vehemently rejected any attempts to cast doubt on Ukraine’s capacity to win on the battlefield,” he tweeted. “The US remains Ukraine’s trustworthy partner, focused on advancing our victory and securing a just peace.”

Meanwhile, the Ukrainian military has denied a claim by Yevgeny Prigozhin, the head of Russia’s private Wagner mercenary group, who said Russian forces now control more than 80 per cent of Bakhmut city. Ukrainian forces have hung on for months in the small city in the eastern Donetsk region, where the bloodiest and fiercest fighting of Russia’s invasion has killed thousands of soldiers.

“This statement by Prigozhin is not true,” said Serhii Cherevatyi, spokeman for the eastern grouping of the Ukrainian armed forces. “I can confidently state that the Ukrainian defence forces control a much larger percentage of the territory of Bakhmut,” he said “Prigozhin needs to show at least some victory in the city, which they have been trying to capture for nine months in a row, so he makes such statements.”

The Russian-appointed leader of Crimea has said Moscow’s forces are ready for a possible Ukrainian assault, days after Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy reaffirmed Kyiv’s intention to take back the Black Sea peninsula that Russia illegally annexed from Ukraine in 2014.

Sergei Aksyonov said Russian forces in Crimea have built “modern, in-depth defences” and have “more than enough” troops and equipment to repel what may be an impending Ukrainian counteroffensive. “We cannot underestimate the enemy, but we can definitely say that we are ready and that there will be no catastrophe,” he said.

Satellite images published last week showed a complex web of trenches and other fortifications dug near Medvedivka, a small town near a crossing between Crimea and mainland Ukraine, suggesting Russia may be concerned about a possible assault. – Guardian News and Media