TOP STORIES Mariupol, a symbol of the human toll of war,...

Mariupol, a symbol of the human toll of war, was probably the “deadliest place” in Ukraine until April.


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The southern port of Mariupol has become a powerful emblem of war casualties in Ukraine, a beleaguered city whose inhabitants were left without electricity and water for weeks and where people were digging trenches to accommodate a growing number of bodies.

On Thursday, a senior United Nations human rights official said Mariupol was likely “the deadliest place in Ukraine” in the first three months of the Russian invasion. According to her, thousands of civilians died there.

The official, Michelle Bachelet, high commissioner for human rights, issuing an updated assessment of Mariupol, also said that up to 350,000 residents fled during the eventual successful Russian siege and occupation of the city, and that up to 90 percent of its residences were either damaged or destroyed. More than 400,000 people once lived in Mariupol.

The Russian attack on Mariupol became emblematic of the horrors of the war in Ukraine at the start of the invasion on February 24, punctuated by attacks on a hospital maternity ward and the collapse of a bombed-out theater where civilians were hiding.

“The intensity and scale of the fighting, destruction, death and injury strongly suggest that there have been serious violations of international humanitarian law and gross violations of international human rights law,” Ms Bachelet said in the assessment.

So far, Ms. Bachelet said, teams of UN investigators have confirmed the deaths of 1,348 civilians as a direct result of fighting in Mariupol, including 70 children. “These deaths were caused by airstrikes, tank and artillery shelling, small arms and light weapons during street fighting,” she said, adding that the actual civilian death toll is “probably thousands more.”

While investigators were unable to physically inspect Russian-occupied Mariupol for security reasons, she said, they “talked directly to people who had fled the city; remote communication with people left in the city; collection and analysis of publicly available information; and with satellite imagery.

According to her, the bodies were found in “improvised individual or collective graves in courtyards, streets and parks, in houses and apartments left unattended.” “Many are yet to be buried.”

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