GENEVA – The number of civilian deaths recorded since the start of Russia’s war on Ukraine has reached 780, while 1,252 more have been wounded, the UN Human Rights Office has said on March 17.
These figures, however, are likely to be significantly lower than the actual toll.
At the same time, the UN Refugee Agency said nearly 3.17 million – 3,169,897 – people have fled from Ukraine since February 24, with more than 1.9 million, mainly women and children, going to Poland.
Over 491,000 have fled to Romania, more than 350,000 to Moldova, nearly 283,000 to Hungary, and over 229,000 to Slovakia in what UN officials have said is the “fastest in terms of swiftness and scale … (and) worst refugee crisis since World War II.”
Nearly 169,000 refugees have also gone to Russia, according to UN records.
Peter Maurer, president of the International Committee of the Red Cross who is currently in Ukraine, has warned that the “suffering in Mariupol must not become the future of Ukraine.”
“I am in Kyiv this week to make an urgent plea to the parties to this conflict. They are the ones who can act now to bring real respite to civilians and people no longer involved in the fight,” he said.
“New, heartbreaking images from Mariupol further underscored that the toll of the conflict is heaviest on civilians,” he said, referring to the southeastern port city facing heavy Russian attacks.
Maurer said it was saddening to see that “children are boarding buses into the unknown instead of boarding buses to their schools.”
“The devastation of this conflict has been vast. Even without a ceasefire, there are practical steps that the parties must take now by respecting international humanitarian law to limit civilian suffering,” he stressed.
He called for concrete agreements to allow civilians safe passage out of cities such as Mariupol.
“Civilians must be able to leave areas of violence. Specific details must be agreed upon and widely shared,” he said.
“Allow humanitarian aid in. The parties are obligated under international humanitarian law to ensure people under their control have access to assistance, or to allow aid in.”