Ukraine crisis: Impunity 'pervasive' in east, says UN

A woman stands near of her damaged home in the pro-Russian rebel-controlled city of Horlivka Image copyright EPA
Image caption Russian-backed separatists and Ukrainian forces accuse each other of breaking a fragile ceasefire

A climate of "pervasive impunity" in eastern Ukraine has meant very few people have been held accountable for a catalogue of alleged summary executions, the UN says.

The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) says some of the cases could amount to war crimes.

It investigated the disappearances and deaths of at least 47 people in areas held by Russian-backed separatists.

The report also lists 29 cases in government-controlled territory.

Almost 9,500 people have died in eastern Ukraine since conflict broke out in 2014. Pro-Russian rebels seized swathes of Ukraine's eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, after Russia annexed the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea, weeks after the ousting of Ukraine's President, Viktor Yanukovych.

'Rebel abductions'

In one case the OHCHR obtained forensic evidence showing that a six-year-old girl, her mother and her grandmother were killed by gunshots to the head in the rebel-held region of Luhansk.

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Media captionTom Burridge on the front line of the Ukraine conflict in May

The bodies of Margaryta and Liana Vidak and Maryna Fedorenko were found dumped. Reports suggest the young girl and two women had been abducted by Cossack members of the unrecognised "Luhansk People's Republic" rebel militia.

According to relatives no action has been taken against the alleged killers.

Eastern Ukraine's simmering conflict

Image copyright AFP
  • In June, eastern Ukraine saw 12 civilian deaths and 57 injuries - highest civilian toll since August 2015
  • Most casualties caused by artillery banned under ceasefire deal, or by mines and gunfire
  • 9,470 have died since the start of the conflict in April 2014, including some 2,000 civilians
  • 1.1 million people have been externally displaced

Source: OCHA

Daily reality of 'frozen war'

The 50-page report also lists the cases of 29 people who went missing or were killed in government-controlled eastern Ukraine throughout the course of 2014 and 2015.

The most recent case is that of Volodymyr Cherepnia who went missing near the government-controlled Ukrainian city of Mariupol in December 2015.

His body was found in a river the following month.

An initial police report stated that he had been detained by members of the Ukrainian armed forces.

However no-one has been found guilty of his murder.

The UN report calls for international criminal proceedings to be brought in some cases because of the sense of impunity.

It did however recognise the efforts of the Ukrainian government to investigate some cases, and said a number of perpetrators had been brought to justice.

A total of 9,404 people, including 2,000 civilians, are estimated to have died in the war, largely because of what the United Nations describes as "indiscriminate shelling of residential areas."

In Crimea, the UN says that 21 people have gone missing, and possibly been killed since Russia annexed the territory in March 2014.

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