Following Russia’s military intervention in Ukraine, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) on Saturday voiced concern that the conflict is affecting densely populated areas, including the capital Kyiv and other major cities.
“As we have seen time and time again in our work all over the world when neighborhoods become the frontline, the consequences for people – including children, the sick, the elderly – are simply devastating,” said Florence Gillette, head of the Geneva-based organization’s delegation in Kyiv.
The sound of massive explosions was periodically heard early Saturday in Kyiv, after Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy warned that Russia would try to “storm” the capital.
“We are calling urgently on parties to the conflict not to forget their obligations under international humanitarian law,” Gillette said in a statement.
“As the conflict evolves and escalates, the anguish and fear people have endured for the past three days deepen.”
'Ensure protection of civilians'
The total death toll since Russia launched a military operation in Ukraine on Thursday remains unclear.
Ravina Shamdasani, spokesperson for the UN Human Rights Office, said there were “reports of at least 127 civilian casualties.”
“This includes 25 killed and 102 injured in Ukraine, caused by shelling and airstrikes … this is very likely to be an underestimate,” she said at a UN press conference on Friday.
According to Ukraine’s Health Minister Oleh Lyashko, 198 Ukrainians have been killed since Moscow launched its attacks.
Gillette called for “protection of the civilian population and those no longer taking part in the fighting, such as detainees or the wounded and sick.”
“International humanitarian law is clear: all parties to the conflict have a legal obligation to ensure that military operations are planned and conducted in a way as to ensure the protection of civilians and civilian objects,” she said.
Gillette emphasized the need for “all feasible precautions to avoid civilian injuries and loss of life,” stressing that “indiscriminate attacks are prohibited.”
“ICRC therefore strongly urges the parties to avoid the use of explosive weapons with a wide impact area in populated areas and to avoid locating military objectives within or near such areas,” she said.
She said any disruption to essential services like water, power, health facilities “can cause huge ripple effects.”
“We have seen too many times in conflicts that the use of explosive weapons that have wide area effects can cause death, damage, and destruction on a dramatic scale,” said Gillette.