Ukraine fighting deadliest since ceasefire, says UN

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A resident of the Artema suburb of Sloviansk, Ukraine, in the rubble of what used to be her summer kitchen, in July 2014. Photo: UNHCR/Iva Zimova

The recent upsurge in fighting in Ukraine has resulted in more civilian deaths than at any time since the signing of the failed ceasefire last year, according to the UN's human rights agency.

"The significant escalation of hostilities in Ukraine since 13 January has taken the total death toll in the country to at least 5,086 individuals and we fear the real figure may be considerably higher. “

Rupert Colville, spokesperson for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, "…In just nine days, between 13 and 21 January, at least 262 people were killed due to the hostilities. This is an average of at least 29 people per day and this has been the most deadly period since the declaration of a ceasefire on 5 September."

An additional 10,948 people had been injured in the same period since the Minsk protocol was signed last September, Mr Colville told reporters.

The development comes amid intense fighting and shelling in the Donetsk region in the east of the country, particularly around the airport.

Tanks and heavy artillery have reportedly been used by government and pro-Russian fighters, while shelling has also been reported in several towns of Luhansk region.

An unknown number of civilians were also killed and wounded on Thursday when an artillery shell hit a bus in Donetsk.

It's the second such attack in 10 days, the UN's human rights office said.

Meanwhile, the UN's refugee agency said new restrictions on the movement of people in the country's conflict zones were impacting on the vulnerable, including the elderly and disabled.

Daniel Johnson, United Nations.

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