UN: Ukrainian, Russian Forces Use Civilians as Human Shields

The report claims Ukrainian forces attacked Russian-aligned forces from a nursing home, the resulting battle killed dozens

The United Nations says Kiev’s and Moscow’s soldiers used elderly and disabled civilians as human shields. In one situation, Ukrainian soldiers hid in a nursing home, provoking an attack that killed dozens of residents.

The report by the UN Office of the High Commissioner says Ukrainian, Russian troops and forces aligned with Moscow are using civilians as human shields. "Both Russian armed forces and affiliated armed groups as well as Ukrainian armed forces took up positions either in residential areas or near civilian objects, from where they launched military operations without taking measures for the protection of civilians present," it concludes.

The report detailed one incident of Kiev’s soldiers using human shields in Ukraine’s Donbas region shortly after the Russian invasion. According to the UN Office of the High Commissioner, the residents of a nursing home in the Luhansk region were unable to evacuate because Ukrainian forces mined the roads around the facility.

As Russian-aligned forces pushed into the region, Ukrainian soldiers entered a building where civilians were residing, and then a battle broke out with the invading troops. "On 7 March, soldiers from Ukrainian armed forces entered the care house, where older persons and residents with disabilities and staff were located…On 9 March, soldiers from Russian-affiliated armed groups engaged in an exchange of fire with soldiers from Ukrainian armed forces, although it remains unclear which side opened fire first."

Russian-aligned forces attacked the facility two days later, causing a fire to break out. According to the report, the total number of deaths is unclear, but the number appears to be about 50. On March 11, " A fire started and spread across the care house. Some staff and patients fled the care house." It continued, "Russian affiliated armed groups met the survivors and provided them with assistance. According to various accounts, at least 22 patients survived the attack, but the exact number of persons killed remains unknown."

Officials in Kiev initially portrayed the deaths of the civilians in the nursing home as an atrocity committed solely by Russian force. However, the AP says the UN findings show "Ukraine’s armed forces bear a large, and perhaps equal, share of the blame for what happened."

A second alleged use of human shields was committed by Russian troops. The report says, "360 residents, including 74 children and five persons with disabilities, were forced by Russian armed forces to stay for 28 days in the basement of a school they had been using as their base."

The UN claims the civilians were provided with insufficient care and ten elderly people died as a result.

Kyle Anzalone is the opinion editor of Antiwar.com, news editor of the Libertarian Institute, and co-host of Conflicts of Interest.