UN rights office reports growing despair in eastern Ukraine

Millions of people are suffering from growing despair and isolation as a result of the bloody conflict in Ukraine, the UN human rights office said Thursday

"There is a terrible sensation of physical, political, social and economic isolation and abandonment among the huge number of people – more than 3 million in all – who are struggling to eke out a living in the conflict zone," UN human rights chief Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein said.

People living along the line of contact between government forces and pro-Russian separatists are enduring considerable hardship, his office said in its latest situation report on Ukraine.

Many homes are damaged, local authorities are not working, people have difficulties getting food or water, and checkpoints block free movement, the report said.

In addition, the UN rights office said that people in the rebel-held eastern areas are facing arbitrary detentions and torture.

"I am particularly concerned by ... the complete absence of due process and rule of law in territories under the control of the armed groups," Zeid said.

Although casualty figures have reached a record low since the conflict broke out in 2014, 21 civilians were killed and 57 injured between mid-November and mid-February, the period covered by the UN report.

The report came as foreign ministers of Ukraine and Russia were set to hold talks in Paris in an effort to come closer to achieving peace in eastern Ukraine as Kiev struggles with a flare-up in political infighting.

The talks, brokered by the French and German foreign ministers, were expected to address Ukraine's ability to fulfi1l political stipulations of a fragile ceasefire agreement clinched last year for Ukraine's two easternmost regions.

The ceasefire, agreed in Minsk between Russian President Vladimir Putin and President Petro Poroshenko of Ukraine, included a requirement that Ukraine grant more autonomy to the two conflict-ridden regions, where pro-Russian separatists have been fighting Ukrainian national forces since mid-2014.

Turmoil in Ukraine's central government has put such stipulations in jeopardy, as the federal parliament is responsible for passing the pertinent legislation.

Last month, Ukraine's ruling coalition lost its legislative majority in parliament. Poroshenko called for Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk to resign, and the prime minister narrowly survived a vote to oust him.

At least 9,160 combatants and civilians have been killed and 21,000 have been wounded in the conflict, which erupted after Ukraine ousted its former pro-Russian president amid mass protests calling for closer ties with the West.

Last update: Thu, 03/03/2016 - 16:34
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