The United Nations says it has identified a mass grave in the besieged southern city of Mariupol it says could hold about 200 bodies.
Russian bombardment of Mariupol is so heavy that local officials estimate 80% of its buildings are destroyed or badly damaged with citizens trapped in the city without much food, water or even shelter.
Earlier this week, local Ukrainian commanders said they thought Mariupol’s death toll alone could be more than 3,000. Bodies are often left in the streets because it is too dangerous to retrieve them, and many of them later end up in mass graves.
On Friday, March 25, Matilda Bogner, head of the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine, said her team was trying to assess the scale of the civilian casualties.
“One mass grave we’ve been able to get satellite information on, and we estimate that one of those mass graves holds about 200 people,” she said.
But “that does not mean all those people are civilian casualties”, she added – since the UN’s numbers do no include military deaths or those who die for other reasons during a war.
At least 1,035 civilians have been killed, she said though the UN has consistently said it believes casualty numbers are “considerably higher” than its official numbers, due to the difficulty in verifying reports and getting information from war-hit areas.
A maternity and children’s hospital in Mariupol was bombed last week. While a theater with a sign of ‘children’ clearly marked outside it was also bombed by Russian forces.
Ukrainian officials say Russia’s use of explosives with “wide area effects in or near populated areas – including missiles, heavy artillery shells and rockets as well as airstrikes” could amount to war crimes, the UN’s human rights monitoring mission for Ukraine has said.
The head of the UN human rights mission in Ukraine, Matilda Bognor, cited two specific examples: An attack on a school in Chernihiv, and the attack on the maternity hospital in Mariupol.
The UN also has reports of Russian forces shooting at and killing civilians who were trying to evacuate by car.
The UN also says there are reports of civilians being killed during peaceful assemblies.