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10 Jul, 2014 12:44

Kiev official: Military op death toll is 478 civilians, outnumbers army losses

Kiev official: Military op death toll is 478 civilians, outnumbers army losses

Four hundred and seventy-eight civilians, including seven children, have been killed in Kiev’s military crackdown on the eastern regions of Ukraine, the country’s deputy health minister said on Thursday.

"The amount on civilian casualties is, unfortunately, greater than the military ones,” Vasily Lazoryshynets, deputy health minister, said as cited by ITAR-TASS.

“In the area of the operation in eastern Ukraine, 478 civilians have died, including 30 women and seven children,” he said.

According to Lazoryshynets , a further 1,392 people were injured in the fighting, with 104 women and 14 children among them.

“Two hundred and seventy-nine currently remain in hospital,” he added.

Earlier in July, Ukraine’s National Security Council said that 200 soldiers and law enforcement officers had been killed and over 600 injured during the so-called “anti-terrorist operation.”

Ukrainian troops are seen near Slavyansk July 8, 2014 (Reuters / Gleb Garanich)

Later on Thursday, the Ukrainian Ministry of Health reduced the figure on the civilian death toll given by Lazoryshynets.

According to its statement, the deputy minister “only provided the latest statistics on the overall mortality level in the areas [where the operation is taking place].”

However, the ministry failed to release any other data on the amount of civilian casualties in Ukraine’s south-east.

The crackdown on the south-east started in mid-April, after people in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions refused to recognize the coup-imposed authorities in Kiev and demanded federalization.

The Ukrainian military and National Guard resorted to airstrikes and shelling in their struggle against the self-defense forces in Donetsk and Lugansk.

The operation stalled for some time, but then Kiev achieved major military gains last week by taking control of important militia strongholds – the cities of Slavyansk and Kramatorsk.

Government forces are now preparing to storm the regional capitals of Donetsk and Lugansk, with an adviser to Interior Minister Stanislav Rechinsky promising that the military operation would be successfully completed in a month.

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Disregard of civilians by Kiev troops saw the number of Ukrainian refugees fleeing to Russia reaching 110,000 people, while 54,400 others were displaced within Ukraine, according to stats from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

Refugees from Ukraine in a camp in the Rostov region (RIA Novosti / Valery Melnikov)

A report by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs says over 4.5 million civilians remain in the war zone in Ukraine.

Russia, which announced a state of emergency in six of its regions due to the arrival of Ukrainian refugees, has urged Kiev to take the UN’s concerns into account.

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Moscow has demanded the Ukrainian authorities “take immediate steps to de-escalate the violence, ensure the early beginning of ceasefire negotiations and improve the humanitarian situation,” Russia’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement.