More than 5,000 people have now been killed since the beginning of the conflict in Ukraine in mid-April last year. The significant escalation of hostilities in Ukraine since 13 January has taken the total death toll in the country to at least 5,086 – and we fear that the real figure may be considerably higher. At least 10,948 people have also been wounded between mid-April last year and 21 January 2015.*

In just nine days, between 13 and 21 January, at least 262 people were killed due to the hostilities. That is an average of at least 29 people killed per day. This has been the most deadly period since the declaration of a ceasefire on 5 September.

In addition to the intense fighting and shelling in the Donetsk region, particularly around the airport where tanks and heavy artillery have reportedly been used by both sides, shelling has also been reported in several towns of Luhansk region. The killing of civilians when an artillery shell hit a bus stopping for passengers in the Leninskyi district of Donetsk yesterday has brought into stark focus the impact of the ongoing hostilities on civilians. This was the second bus to have been struck, with significant casualties, in the last 10 days.

We are concerned about the lack of implementation of the 12 provisions of the Minsk Protocol and the continuing presence of foreign fighters in the east, allegedly including servicemen from the Russian Federation, as well as the presence of heavy and sophisticated weaponry in populated areas under the control of armed groups. Civilians held or trapped in these areas are subject to a total lack of respect for human rights and the rule of law. We remind all parties to the conflict that international humanitarian law prohibits the targeting of civilians and requires that all necessary measures be taken to ensure the safety and protection of civilians, and that the principles of military necessity, distinction, proportionality and precaution be strictly respected.

We are also concerned about the impact on civilians of the recent decision by the National Security and Defence Council of Ukraine to restrict movement in and out of the areas controlled by armed groups. As of 21 January, people travelling to and from these areas need to obtain special passes and provide documents to justify the need to travel. These limitations are worrying, especially in light of the escalating hostilities. It adds to concerns created by the Government decision in November 2014 to discontinue providing State services in the territories controlled by armed groups. The introduction of such restrictions will likely have a severe effect on the most vulnerable groups, such as older people, mothers with children and people with disabilities who may depend heavily on social benefits. We urge Ukrainian authorities to take immediate steps to redress this situation.

* The casualty figure is a conservative estimate of the HRMU and WHO based on available official data: casualties of the Ukrainian armed forces as reported by the Ukrainian authorities; 298 people from flight MH-17; and casualties reported by civil medical establishments of Donetsk and Luhansk regions: civilians and some members of the armed groups. HRMU and WHO believe that the actual numbers of fatalities are considerably higher.