Russian air-dropped bombs cause rise in Ukraine civilian casualties: UN

FILE PHOTO: Aftermath of a Russian air strike in Borova

GENEVA (Reuters) - Russia's use of air-dropped bombs with a larger range is a major reason civilian casualties in Ukraine increased between March and May, the U.N. human rights office (OHCHR) said on Wednesday.

The munitions also caused widespread damage to civilian property and infrastructure, particularly near the frontline, OHCHR said in a report on the human rights situation in Ukraine.

"Increased use of powerful air-dropped bombs with a larger range by Russian armed forces was a significant reason for the rise in civilian casualties and massive destruction of civilian infrastructure in frontline communities," according to the report, which covers the period between March and May.

OHCHR found that the Russian offensive in the Kharkiv region alone killed 78 civilians killed and wounded 305 others from May 10-31. Between March and May, at least 436 civilians were killed and 1,760 injured in Ukraine, according to OHCHR.

The actual figures are likely higher due to limited access to the frontline and territory occupied by Russia, as well as the pending corroboration of some civilian casualties.

"The vast majority of civilian casualties (96 per cent) were caused by the use of explosive weapons with wide area effects in populated areas, such as artillery shells and rockets, bombs, missiles, loitering munitions and other explosive munitions dropped by unmanned aerial vehicles," said the report, which will be presented to the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva on July 9.

Other casualties were attributed to mines and explosive remnants of war.

Russia has repeatedly denied targeting civilians since launching a full-scale invasion of its neighbour in February 2022.

OHCHR said that Russia's renewed attacks against Ukrainian energy infrastructure between March and May were the most extensive since the winter of 2022-2023, causing mass power outages that affected water supply and communications networks.

"The cumulative impact of these sustained attacks on energy infrastructure could potentially deprive the civilian population of services necessary for its survival, particularly when the winter season starts," the report said.

Russia pressed its ground assault into the north of the Kharkiv region in May, opening a new front in the 28-month war.

(Reporting by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber; Editing by Philippa Fletcher)