UN estimates thousands of civilians have died in Mariupol since Feb. 24

Head of Ukraine Human Rights Monitoring Mission says people in Ukraine's southern Mariupol city living in what 'appears to be occupation'.

UN estimates thousands of civilians have died in Mariupol since Feb. 24

The head of the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine on Tuesday said the UN estimates there were thousands of civilian deaths after Russia's assault on Mariupol, but the figures still need to be corroborated.

At a UN press conference, Matilda Bogner said Tuesday was the 76th day since Russia attacked Ukraine on Feb. 24 with destruction of lives, cities, hospitals, and schools.

She referred to the southern city of Mariupol, which had a population of around half a million under constant bombardment since the start of the war, saying "people are now living under what appears to be an occupation."

The UN confirmed on Tuesday that a total of 3,459 civilians have been killed and 3,713 injured across Ukraine since the beginning of Russia's war on its neighbor, while Bogner said the figures are considerably higher.

"However, we do estimate that thousands of civilians have died in Mariupol since the 24th of February, but there's again, the scale of this is yet to be fully documented," she noted.

The UN official said reports of atrocities had come from both the Russian and Ukrainian sides.

8M internally displaced

Separately, the number of people internally displaced by the war in Ukraine has surpassed 8 million, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

Those displaced represent a 24% increase compared to IOM's first internal displacement figures on March 16.

Schools, hospitals, private houses, and multi-story residential buildings have been destroyed in many areas of Ukraine that Bogner visited.

"To date, we have recorded hundreds of educational and medical facilities destroyed or damaged in areas affected by hostilities across the country," she said.

Bogner said her mission noted with concern it has received information that in many areas, armed forces – from both sides – have used schools as their bases and placed heavy military equipment in the vicinity of schools.

"Throughout Ukraine, at least 50 Christian, Jewish, and Muslim places of worship of different denominations have been damaged as a result of the hostilities," added the UN official.

The high number of civilian casualties and the extent of destruction and damage to civilian objects strongly suggest violations of the principles governing the conduct of hostilities.

Sexual violence

"We continue to receive allegations of rape, including gang rape, attempted rape, forced nudity, threats of sexual violence against civilian women and girls, men and boys," said Bogner.

"Women and girls are the most frequently cited victims. During my recent visit to towns north of Kyiv, we documented a number of cases of sexual violence. In one town that we visited, a woman was raped and killed allegedly by a Russian soldier."

"We have documented 204 cases of enforced disappearance, 169 men, 34 women, and one boy, the overwhelming majority of them by Russian Armed Forces and affiliated armed groups.

"We have received credible information of torture, ill-treatment, and incommunicado detention by Ukrainian armed forces of prisoners of war belonging to the Russian Armed Forces and affiliated armed groups," she added.

Bogner noted that often it was too dangerous for people to leave their homes or shelters to seek medical assistance.

"Older persons and persons with disabilities are two groups that have suffered disproportionately from the effects of the conflict, often depending on others and lacking access to the medication and treatment they need," said Bogner.

Hüseyin Demir