Short on funds and wary of looters, many are sheltering in basements in the warzone – and paying an emotional price.
Nearly 8,000 people, including civilians, soldiers and rebel fighters, have been killed in Ukraine since war broke out between government forces and pro-Russian rebels last year, according to the UN Human Rights agency.
“Since the conflict began in eastern Ukraine in mid-April 2014, a total of at least 7,962 people … have been killed,” and at least 17,811 have been injured, the United Nations Human Rights office said in its latest report released on Tuesday.
An estimated three million people continue to reside in the territories under control of the Donetsk People's Republic and Luhansk People's Republic without protection from the human rights violations...
Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, UN human rights chief, said that civilian casualties have gone up over the past three months – at least 105 civilians killed and 308 injured.
“More needs to be done to protect civilians and put a complete stop to the hostilities, in accordance with the February ceasefire,” Zeid said, as civilian casualties more than doubled between May and August compared to February-May period.
Pavel Hrinko, 19, from the rebel-held Debaltseve told Al Jazeera that most of the ceasefire violations were occuring in the outskirts of nearby cities of Horlivka and Donetsk.
“Other than that it is all quiet. I am just working and disassembling my bombarded house with the help of my friends,” Hrinko, an electrician whose house was charred by two rounds of shelling in spring, said. “The rebels are not helping with anything of course.”
Human rights violations
UN report raised concerns for people like Hrinko who live in the rebel-held territories, saying their situation was worsening in terms of access to food and water especially with winter approaching.
The report documented cases of killings, abductions, torture and ill-treatment, sexual violence, forced labour, ransom demands and extortion in the territories controlled by the rebel groups known as Donetsk People’s Republic and Luhansk People’s Republic as well as the government-controlled region.
“An estimated three million people continue to reside in the territories under control of the Donetsk People’s Republic and Luhansk People’s Republic without protection from the human rights violations and abuses of the armed groups and their supporters,” the report said.
The report said that the pro-European Ukrainian government had made efforts to implement the terms of the peace deal, but accused Kiev of multiple violations of the accord.
The UN mission in Ukraine identified a “persistent pattern of arbitrary and incommunicado detention by the Ukrainian law enforcement and by military and paramilitary units”. The report accussed them of torture and ill-treatment of detainees.
According to the document, the conflict was being fueled by the presence and continued influx of foreign fighters and sophisticated weapons and ammunition from Russia.
Tamila Varshalomidze contributed to this report from Doha.