Press Release

In Ukraine UN Human Rights Monitors Report the Highest Monthly Number of Civilian Casualties in Almost a Year

07 June 2024

Kyiv, 7 June 2024 – May saw a significant monthly increase in casualties with 31 per cent more civilians killed than in April marking the highest number of civilian casualties in nearly a year, the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine (HRMMU) said today.

“Over half of the casualties in May occurred in Kharkiv city and region where Russian armed forces launched a new ground offensive on 10 May,” said Danielle Bell, the head of HRMMU. “The main reason for the high number of civilian casualties is the use of air-dropped bombs and missiles in populated areas such as communities near the frontline and Kharkiv city,” she added.

Bell noted that attacks in Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, have been particularly deadly but that no place in Ukraine was safe. In its monthly update on civilian harm, HRMMU said conflict-related violence killed at least 174 civilians and injured 690 in Ukraine in May, the highest number of civilian casualties since June 2023.

On 23 May, missiles struck a printing house in Kharkiv city, killing seven employees and injuring at least 21 civilians, mainly women. Two days later two air-dropped bombs struck Epitsentr, a large home improvement center, in Kharkiv city, killing 19 civilians and injuring 54, including many employees. On 31 May, multiple missiles hit a residential area in Kharkiv city, including a multi-story building, killing nine civilians and injuring at least 15.

“The attacks on a shopping center and printing house in Kharkiv city highlight the stark vulnerability of civilians engaged in everyday activities, where even routine tasks like buying supplies to repair damaged homes can result in the loss of life and loved ones,” said Bell.

HRMMU visited the sites of the attacks, documented the damage to civilian property and infrastructure, and verified the number and status of civilian casualties in these and other attacks.

One 45-year-old woman told HRMMU that she tried to seek shelter after a large explosion in her neighborhood shattered the windows in her ground-floor apartment around midnight on 30-31 May. Before she managed to leave the apartment, however, a second explosion caused a wall in her apartment to collapse, trapping her leg underneath rubble. A fire broke out in the building, but emergency workers managed to rescue her. As first responders took her to the hospital, she heard two more explosions in the neighborhood. She said that she felt lucky to be alive. The attack, however, killed several of her neighbors who lived on floors above her.

The intensification of hostilities in Kharkiv region has dramatically affected frontline communities, including by causing the near complete destruction of the town of Vovchansk. HRMMU conducted 92 interviews with evacuees who described massive attacks with artillery, aerial bombs and missiles that caused them to shelter for days in basements without basic necessities before risking their lives to evacuate. A couple who evacuated with their elderly parents said that Vovchansk was in ruins, with street-by-street destruction as the city came under fire.

HRMMU said in May the vast majority of civilian casualties (92 per cent), and damage to educational and health facilities (96 per cent) continued to occur in Government-controlled territory.

The rise in deaths and injuries was accompanied by intensifying attacks on energy infrastructure, forcing Ukraine to introduce rolling blackouts across the country, compounding the difficulties faced by millions of Ukrainians who have now lived through almost 28 months of war.  

HRMMU documented 24 attacks on energy infrastructure (19 attacks in Government-controlled territory and 5 in territory occupied by the Russian Federation), destroying or damaging power generation plants and electricity substations and temporarily disrupting access to electricity and water supply. HRMMU also documented six attacks on railway infrastructure in Government-controlled territory in May.


 Krzysztof Janowski

Krzysztof Janowski


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