Svitlana Kontratyuk shook with grief, fear, shock and disbelief. Tears poured from her eyes. As she wiped them away, her hands trembled. Her apartment building had been partially destroyed earlier that morning by a heavy aerial bomb during an attack on the town of Snizhnye, near Ukraine’s border with Russia.
“It fell at exactly 7:20 this morning. At 7:20, I always leave. I’d only just walked out of the building. Only just. Then it was flattened. Something just slammed into it,” she said, nearly shouting with hysteria. “That’s it. Now there is nothing left,” she said.
Though she lost everything, Svitlana and her husband just barely escaped joining the growing list of the dead – she was saved from shrapnel by heavy pine trees lining the pavement, he was saved because he was out on their balcony smoking a cigarette.
Since mid-April, around 800 civilians have been killed in the conflict in eastern Ukraine between the government and pro-Russian rebels according to a report released earlier this week by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.
With international attention riveted on Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, the deaths of the roughly 800 people and the wounding of at least 2,155 people has gone mostly unnoticed by the rest of the world.
“Egregious human rights abuses have been committed in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of eastern Ukraine,” reads the UN’s latest report. “Increasing numbers of civilians have been killed.”
With the Ukrainian army tightening its encirclement of the rebel capitals of Donetsk and Luhansk – and its unprofessional use of old weaponry to randomly assault urban areas still populated with civilians – the human cost of this vicious civil war is set to rise in the coming weeks.
“This will not end soon, I am afraid. I am afraid of everything now. I’m afraid to go home,” said Svitlana. “I’m afraid of everything. I’m afraid! I don’t know! I don’t know if this will end or not.”