Friday, August 15, 2014

Ukraine Death Toll Doubles in 2 Weeks

Ukraine Death Toll Doubles in 2 Weeks | August 13, 2014

The death toll in Ukraine has doubled in just two weeks as government forces escalate their campaign against the pro-Russian rebels who have had a stronghold over eastern cities for months.

At least 2,086 people have been killed and 4,953 injured since mid-April, the U.N. human rights office reported on Wednesday. However, U.N. spokeswoman Cecile Pouilly said those numbers are "very conservative estimates."

On average, more than 60 people — Ukrainian armed forces, civilians and armed groups — have been killed or wounded daily as part of "a clear escalating trend" of violence, said Pouilly.

In the weeks following the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, fighting in the eastern region of Ukraine hit an all-time high. Once confined to rural areas, the violence began spilling over into cities in residential areas last month, and civilian casualties began to rise as a result.

Ukraine's military is now closing in on two separatist-held cities in the east — Donetsk and Luhansk — in an attempt to weed out the rebel militias. As a result, the vast areas that were once under the separatist stronghold has been reduced by nearly 75%.

The rebel-held city of Donetsk, which is about 40 miles from the MH17 crash site, has become the epicenter of the conflict. Ukrainian forces have surrounded Donetsk, forcing the separatists to barricade themselves in the center of the city. The two sides have exchanged heavy fire, shelling apartment buildings and businesses in a bit-by-bit leveling of the once-vibrant city.

Meanwhile, the residents of Donetsk who haven't yet fled — many of whom are also pro-Russian — have seen enough destruction.