(Geneva) The United Nations wishes to publish a more realistic figure of the number of civilian victims in Ukraine, an official of the organization told the specialized NGO Airwars this week.
The UN, through the Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine, has been tracking civilian casualties in that country since 2014, the year in which Moscow annexed Crimea.
This mission has continued its work since the Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24, which allows the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to publish a daily human toll of the conflict.
Thus, the High Commission evoked Friday at least 1626 civilians killed including 132 children. But by the UN’s own admission, there is little doubt that the actual balance sheets are much higher.
The organization wishes to publish a more realistic assessment, indicated Uladzimir Shcherbau, in charge of the file.
“We are currently working on a realistic estimate of the real number of casualties from the conflict,” he told Airwars, an NGO that investigates civilian casualties resulting primarily from the use of explosive weapons in countries affected by Conflicts.
“We have a great mass of information that allows us to triangulate or approximate the actual number of deaths,” he said.
Mr. Shcherbau recognizes that this is an “extremely sensitive” subject: “We are under enormous pressure because we are strongly criticized”.
Questioned by AFP, a spokeswoman for the High Commission in Geneva, Elizabeth Throssell, nevertheless underlined that “the new way of assessing the losses was considered within the framework of the work of the mission, and not directly to follow-up criticism.
According to Mr. Shcherbau, the new toll will remain “conservative”, but “fairly close to the actual number of deaths”.
When the United Nations is tasked with compiling a human toll, it should ideally be able to conduct a very thorough investigation of every civilian who may have been killed, to establish where and when it happened, the name , age and gender. The United Nations is also trying to determine which party to the conflict controlled the area, the weapon used and the circumstances of the death.
But in the current context in Ukraine, “we cannot go into every incident” given the huge amount of material the UN has to process in a short time, Mr. Shcherbau stressed.
He also indicates that the UN has not yet published a report on the areas that were under the control of the Russian armed forces – such as the regions of Kharkiv, Chernihiv or Kherson. “But we’re also going to release those numbers pretty soon.”