By John Heilprin for the Associated Press
GENEVA (AP) — A steady rise in killings, torture and abductions by pro-Russia armed groups in eastern Ukraine has claimed hundreds of lives since last month, U.N. monitors in the region said Wednesday.
At least 356 people, including 257 civilians, have been killed since May 7, according to the 34 monitors with the U.N. human rights office. Among those casualties are 86 Ukrainian military personnel, including the killing of 49 crew and troops who died when a Ukrainian military transport plane was shot down by separatists last week. The other 13 dead were not specified.
There have been more than 200 reports of torture, the new report says, and 81 people were being held on June 7 as the deadly conflict raged in eastern Ukraine between pro-Russia separatists and the government in Kiev.
“We’re talking about a reign of fear, if not a reign of terror, in those pocket areas,” Gianni Magazzeni, head of the rights office’s European department, told reporters.
U.N. human rights chief Navi Pillay said in the report Wednesday that a “climate of insecurity and fear” has displaced 34,000 people, nearly half in Ukraine’s eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, which have declared independence from Kiev.
“The escalation in criminal activity resulting in human rights abuses is no longer limited to targeting journalists, elected representatives, local politicians, civil servants and civil society activists,” the report says. “Abductions, detentions, acts of ill-treatment and torture, and killings by armed groups are now affecting the broader population of the two eastern regions.”
Magazzeni said monitors found that many people are “so fearful for their lives that they would not even want to dare to vote if they had a chance to do so.”