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Despite announced ceasefire, UN confirms fighting still heavy in eastern Ukraine

20 February 2015 – While the 15 February ceasefire has led to a decrease in hostilities in east Ukraine, the United Nations human rights office today expressed deep worry over the fate of civilians and Ukrainian servicemen in the Debaltseve area, where heavy fighting has continued as a result of repeated breaches of the truce.

"It is unclear how many civilians are trapped while fighting rages in the town, how many have been wounded or killed, and whether they now have access to medical and other basic services," UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) spokesperson Rupert Colville told reporters in Geneva today.

"We deeply regret also that OSCE [Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe] monitors were not, and still have not been, allowed access to this area. We are also concerned about the resumed shelling of populated areas, in the cities of Donetsk and Mariupol in particular," he added.

Mr. Colville it is crucial that the ceasefire is respected and the fighting stops, especially in built-up areas, and that the Minsk Agreements are fully implemented.

The death toll since the beginning of the conflict in mid-April 2014 has now risen to at least 5,692 as of Wednesday, 18 February. At least 14,122 people have also been wounded in the east of Ukraine. However, this is a "conservative estimate" and the actual numbers may be considerably higher, Mr. Colville said.

"A further increase in the number of recorded casualties is expected in the coming days because reporting on casualties during the pre-ceasefire period, and especially in recent days in Debaltseve, has been considerably delayed."

He added that the condition of captured Ukrainian pilot Nadiia Savchenko, who has been detained in Moscow since July last year, is also worrying. Today is the 70th day of her hunger strike. And according to her lawyer, she decided to refuse glucose injections which were being given to her. Mr. Colville called on the Russian authorities to release her immediately.



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