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UN: Numbers of Displaced Ukrainians Rising

  • Margaret Besheer

Local residents wait for a bus as they try flee fighting in the eastern Ukrainian city of Slovyansk June 10, 2014.

Local residents wait for a bus as they try flee fighting in the eastern Ukrainian city of Slovyansk June 10, 2014.

A senior U.N. human rights official says that over the last two weeks, the number of displaced persons in Ukraine has doubled to more than 46,000 and could be higher. In his briefing to the U.N. Security Council Tuesday, Ivan Simonovic said the situation in eastern Ukraine is “rapidly deteriorating.”

Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights Simonovic briefed on the latest findings of the 34-person team of monitors dispatched to Ukraine in March by the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Simonovic said eastern Ukraine is experiencing serious human rights challenges, including abductions and detentions by armed groups and the reported excessive use of force and enforced disappearances during government security operations. As a result, civilians are becoming displaced.

“The population is leaving, partly due to fear, but also because of the worsening situation of economic and social rights,” Simonovic said.

Speaking to the council from Croatia via a video link, Simonovic said over the last two weeks, the U.N. refugee agency has profiled more than 46,000 displaced persons - more than 35,000 from the east and 11,500 from Crimea, which was annexed by Russia in March. He said the number is likely to be higher because there is no formal registration system.

Simonovic said from mid-April to June 20, an estimated 423 people, including military personnel and civilians, were killed in eastern Ukraine.

He welcomed President Petro Poroshenko’s recently announced peace plan and unilateral cease-fire, and the declaration by armed groups that they would observe a truce until Friday. But that appeared in jeopardy Tuesday, as a Ukrainian military helicopter was reported shot down by rebels near the eastern town of Slovyansk.

In Moscow, President Vladimir Putin asked parliament to revoke the right it granted him in March to send the Russian military into Ukraine to defend Russian nationals and Russian-speaking Ukrainians. Several Security Council members welcomed the development, but said it must be genuinely reflected on the ground.

They also expressed support for President Poroshenko’s peace plan and concern for eight international monitors who have been held by separatists in Donetsk and Luhansk for nearly a month.

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