Conflict-related civilian casualties in Ukraine (1)

February 2020

From 1 to 29 February 2020, Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) recorded five conflict-related civilian casualties (one killed and four injured), a 58.3 per cent decrease compared with January 2020:

- One man was injured by shelling in territory controlled by the self-proclaimed ‘Luhansk people’s republic’, and one man was injured by SALW (2) fire in territory controlled by the self-proclaimed ‘Donetsk people’s republic’;

- One man was killed in a mine-related incident (3) in territory controlled by the self-proclaimed ‘Luhansk people’s republic’; and

- One woman and one man were injured as a result of ERW handling (4) (hand grenades) in territory controlled by the self-proclaimed ‘Luhansk people’s republic’ and in territory controlled by the self-proclaimed ‘Donetsk people’s republic’ respectively.

January 2020

From 1 to 31 January 2020, OHCHR recorded 12 conflict-related civilian casualties (one killed and 11 injured), a 300 per cent increase compared with December 2019 (one killed and two injured):

- Three men and a woman were injured by shelling in territory controlled by the self-proclaimed ‘Luhansk people’s republic’;

- Four men were injured in mine-related incidents: three in territory controlled by the self-proclaimed ‘Luhansk people’s republic’, and one in Government-controlled part of Donetsk region;

- As a result of ERW handling, a man was killed and two men were injured in Government-controlled part of Donetsk region, and a boy was injured in territory controlled by the self-proclaimed ‘Luhansk people’s republic’.

Trends in 2020

Civilian casualties from 1 January to 29 February 2020, per type of weapon/incident

Screenshot 2020 03 18 at 16.12.36

In January 2020, the number of civilian casualties, though increased compared with December 2019, remained comparable with average monthly civilian casualties in 2019 (2.3 killed and 11.7 injured on average a month) which were the lowest for the entire conflict period. In February 2020, civilian casualties decreased to the levels observed in the last quarter of 2019.

During the period from 1 January to 29 February 2020, average monthly civilian casualties (one killed and 7.5 injured on average per month) were 40 per cent lower than average monthly civilian casualties in 2019.

In January and February 2020, civilian casualties resulting from shelling and SALW fire (which are most indicative in terms of IHL compliance and of the situation with protection of civilians) remained at the lowest levels for the entire conflict period, and at the same levels as in the last quarter of 2019. Majority of them were recorded in territory controlled by the self-proclaimed ‘republics’ (14 out of 16 from 1 October 2019 to 29 February 2020).

In January 2020, not a single civilian casualty resulting from shelling or SALW fire was recorded in Donetsk region (on either side of the contact line) – while in October, November and December 2019 all such casualties were registered in Donetsk region only (on both sides of the contact line).

In January and February 2020, five of the six civilian casualties caused by shelling and SALW fire were recorded in territory controlled by the self-proclaimed ‘Luhansk people’s republic’, to the east and south-east of the town of Zolote; Zolote area is one of the major hotspots in recent years.

Four of the five mine-related incidents recorded in January and February 2020 occurred in the armed group-controlled area of Luhansk region along Siverskyi Donets River. This area is heavily contaminated by mines, booby traps and UXO, and a lot of similar incidents have been registered there since 2015. Occurrence of these four incidents in January and February can be attributed to the soft winter.

Five mine-related incidents recorded in January and February 2020 have been the first ones since October 2019, and do not revert the overall trend of decreasing civilian casualties caused by mine-related incidents.

Victims of ERW handling, though decreasing annually in absolute figures, continue to comprise a considerable share of civilian casualties (34.5 per cent of total civilian casualties in January and February 2020).

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(1) OHCHR documents civilian casualties by consulting a broad range of sources and types of information, which are evaluated for credibility and reliability. This update is based on information that UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine (HRMMU) collected through interviews with victims and their relatives; witnesses; analysis of corroborating material confidentially shared with HRMMU; official records; open-source documents, photo and video materials; forensic records and reports; criminal investigation materials; court documents; public reports of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine; reports by international and national non-governmental organizations; public reports by law enforcement and military actors; data from medical facilities and local authorities; and other relevant and reliable materials. In some instances, corroboration may take weeks or months before conclusions can be drawn. This may mean that conclusions on civilian casualties may be revised as more information becomes available. Numbers may change as new information emerges over time.

(2) Small arms and light weapons.

(3) Incidents in which civilians were killed or injured by mines (antipersonnel or anti-vehicle) or explosive devices triggered in the same way, such as booby traps, or by ERW (explosive remnants of war) that are inadvertently detonated by unsuspecting civilians.

(4) Victims of ERW handling manipulate with an ERW for a certain period of time and take additional efforts to make it detonate (for instance, by trying to dismantle it), or were near those, who manipulated an ERW.