UN says death toll in eastern Ukraine rises to 4,707 with many killed despite cease-fire

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Workers decorate a New Year tree, in front of the St. Sophia Cathedral in central Kiev, Ukraine, Monday, Dec. 15, 2014. New Year is widely celebrated as the most popular holiday in Ukraine with the Orhodox Christmas being celebrated on Jan. 7. (AP Photo/Sergei Chuzavkov)


GENEVA — Fighting in eastern Ukraine has killed at least at least 4,707 people since the conflict began in mid-April and more than a quarter of the recorded deaths have come since a much-ignored cease-fire, U.N. rights investigators said Monday.

A new report from the U.N. team in Ukraine says at least 1,357 of the fatalities have been recorded since the cease-fire began in early September, but the team noted that some of those deaths may have occurred before then.

Some 10,322 people have been wounded in the conflict-affected areas of eastern Ukraine, where more than 5 million people are facing rising hardships, according to the report. The most vulnerable populations, such as the elderly, children and people in state institutional care, are being particularly affected by disruptions in social and medical services.

"The situation of many people, including those held against their will, in areas under the control of the armed groups may well be life-threatening," said the U.N. high commissioner for human rights, Zeid Raad al-Hussein. "The government of Ukraine remains responsible for protecting the human rights of all Ukrainians, including the right to health, education and social security, in all its territory, including areas it does not fully control."

The latest findings from the Geneva office, based on reports from a 34-member U.N. monitoring mission in Ukraine during November and other figures through Dec. 12, says large-scale offensives have halted since the cease-fire, but skirmishes and indiscriminate shelling of populated areas continue.

Previous U.N. reports have observed that the standoff between government troops and pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine is increasingly entrenched as law and order breaks down in Donetsk, the largest city under separatist control, and in rebel-controlled areas in the neighboring Luhansk region.

The report also notes lack of progress with several human rights investigations into alleged violations in Kiev, Kharkiv and Mariupol.

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