Assessment of the Ukrainian conflict: what we know

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Kyiv (Ukraine) (AFP) – Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is nearing the start of its third month and with Moscow’s military advance and negotiations largely stalled, there doesn’t appear to be an immediate end to the fighting.

Here’s what we can definitively say about the human cost of the conflict in which allegations of Russian atrocities have raised fears of a heavy civilian toll.

– The United Nations –

The benchmark today in many world conflicts is the UN, which on Tuesday this week estimated that in Ukraine there had been “4,450 civilian casualties in the country: 1,892 killed and 2,558 injured”.

The UN, however, makes it clear that it “believes the actual numbers to be considerably higher”, citing late reports from the battlefield and efforts to verify existing information.

In light of this, the UN announced last week that it would change its methodology and release figures that reflect “a realistic estimate of the true death toll”, said the head of its civilian casualty monitoring team.

Military losses

The UN tally does not include military deaths.

The Defense Ministries of Ukraine and Russia regularly issue statements about the number of soldiers they have killed on the opposite side.

kyiv says its troops have killed 19,600 Russian servicemen since the invasion began in late February. Moscow said on March 25 that its forces had killed at least 14,000 Ukrainian servicemen.

These figures, however, are widely believed to be inflated and have not been verified by AFP or independent conflict monitors.

Russia uncharacteristically acknowledged its own military casualties, but put its death toll well below Ukraine’s at 1,351 in its latest March 25 update.

A senior NATO military official estimated at the same time that between 7,000 and 15,000 Russian soldiers could have been killed in the fighting so far.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov admitted to Sky News last week that Russian troops had suffered “significant losses” in Ukraine, calling it a “huge tragedy”.

Ukraine does not deny that its soldiers die on the battlefield but it has not published a total.

Bucha and more

The withdrawal of Russian troops from towns around the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, has revealed massive civilian casualties and those numbers are expected to rise.

Bucha, where hundreds of corpses – some with their hands tied behind their backs – were discovered, has become the most infamous location, but Ukrainian authorities are uncovering similar scenes in other liberated areas.

Ukrainian police said on Thursday that so far 720 bodies had been found in the Kyiv region.

North of kyiv, authorities in Chernigiv – the largest settlement to be recaptured from Russian forces said some 700 people had been killed since the fighting began.

In the eastern city of Severodonetsk, where fighting is still raging, officials said at least 400 civilians had been buried since the invasion began.

Clearance and demining efforts continue in areas wrested from Russian control and are expected to result in a higher tally.

Mariupol

Perhaps the biggest and most ominous question mark concerns the southern city of Mariupol, which has been besieged by Russian forces for weeks. Ukrainian troops resist in a large industrial factory.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said this week he believed Russia was responsible for the deaths of “tens of thousands” of people.

Donetsk region governor Pavlo Kyrylenko estimated on Tuesday that between 20,000 and 22,000 people had died in the city.

Kyiv officials said last month that by the start of March confirmed deaths were already around 5,000, but by then they could have already reached 10,000.

Ukraine’s human rights ombudsman claimed on Thursday that Russia was using 13 mobile crematoria to “clear the streets of the bodies of dead civilians”, efforts which, if confirmed, would make it all the more difficult to establish of a precise assessment in the city.

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