More than 6,000 killed in 'merciless devastation'

GENEVA - More than 6,000 people have been killed since violence erupted in Ukraine last April, the UN rights chief said Monday, decrying a "merciless devastation of civilian lives and infrastructure." "More than 6,000 lives have now been lost in less than a year due to the fighting in eastern Ukraine," UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein said in a statement.

Launching his office's ninth report on the situation in violence-wracked Ukraine, Zeid called on all sides to respect a fragile Minsk peace deal, and "halt the indiscriminate shelling and other hostilities that have created a dreadful situation for civilians." His comments came amid a relative calm along the frontline in eastern Ukraine that has raised hope the sides are moving towards implementing the shaky European-brokered ceasefire.

But the UN report paints a bleak picture of developments in the violence-wracked country and warned there had been a "serious escalation" of the conflict since the beginning of the year.

It details how the conflict is affecting civilians, including arbitrary detention, torture and enforced disappearances, committed mainly by armed groups but also in some cases by Ukrainian law enforcement agencies.

It points to suspicions of summary, extrajudicial and arbitrary executions, including Ukrainian soldiers found "with their hands tied with white electrical cable" at Donetsk airport after it was taken by armed groups in January.