In more than 12 months of war in Ukraine, the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) is assessing that the Russian military has killed and wounded more than 20,000 men, women, and children.
Civilians in the Crosshairs in Ukraine
As of February 27, the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) assesses that the Russian invasion of Ukraine has killed and wounded 21,580 civilians, with 8,101 killed and 13,479 wounded.
More than 300 children have been killed or wounded by Russian attacks, and close to 700 civilians were killed in January.
But these are just the numbers that could be verified by the United Nations.
In reality, it is almost certain that there are additional civilian casualties.
“OHCHR believes that the actual figures are considerably higher, as the receipt of information from some locations where intense hostilities have been going on has been delayed, and many reports are still pending corroboration,” the OHCHR stated in its latest update on civilian casualties in Ukraine.
“This concerns, for example, Mariupol (Donetsk region), Lysychansk, Popasna, and Sievierodonetsk (Luhansk region), where there are allegations of numerous civilian casualties,” the United Nations office added.
Civilian casualties have occurred all across the contact line, which is close to 800 miles long, but lately, the majority of civilian casualty incidents have taken place in the Donetsk, Luhansk, and Zaporizhzhia provinces.
According to numbers cited by the British Military Intelligence, “based on other, independent analysis, over 16,000 civilians have likely been killed.”
And it looks like 2023 has started on a very bad foot.
The Russian forces have launched a large-scale offensive in the Donbas, and missiles and drones are striking Ukrainian cities.
To make matters worse, the Russian forces have a habit of targeting medical facilities and schools.
“These incidents, and continued civilian casualties are likely largely due to Russia’s lack of discrimination in the use of artillery and other area weapon systems,” the British Military Intelligence assessed in a recent update on the war.
The Russian Strategy That Kills Civilians
In early fall, around October, the Russian military had to change its strategy.
The Kremlin appointed a new commander, Colonel-General Sergei Surovikin, who is also the chief of the Russian Aerospace Forces.
Seeing that the Russian forces on the ground were not only incapable of achieving any of Moscow’s operational goals but were on the run from the Ukrainian counteroffensives in the east and the south, Surovikin opted to rain hell on Ukraine’s population.
Since October, the Russian military has launched more than 1,200 ballistic and cruise missiles against Ukrainian urban centers and critical infrastructure.
In addition, the Russian forces have launched hundreds of suicide drones. Ukrainian cities all across the country have suffered from Russian missile and drone strikes.
Partly in response to these attacks, in February, through Vice President Kamala Harris, the U.S. officially accused Russia of crimes against humanity.
Expert Biography: A 19FortyFive Defense and National Security Columnist, Stavros Atlamazoglou is a seasoned defense journalist specializing in special operations, a Hellenic Army veteran (national service with the 575th Marine Battalion and Army HQ), and a Johns Hopkins University graduate.