The head of the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine says civilian casualties in the war are high and dangerous conditions in the country have made it difficult to know the true toll of the conflict on non- fighters.

Speaking from Uzhhorod, Ukraine, in an interview broadcast on Sunday Rosemary Barton liveMatilda Bogner warned of a dire situation in the country five weeks after its invasion by Russia.

“Unfortunately, every day the civilian casualties increase,” she said. “It’s a very high number of civilian casualties in the country.”

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has documented more than 3,000 civilian casualties, including 1,417 deaths.

But as tragic as that is, Bogner says the true number is likely much higher.

“The numbers we are recording do not give the full picture, as we need to fully verify each individual victim, and we know there are more than those we have verified so far,” she said. .

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An apartment building that was destroyed during Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is shown in the beleaguered port city of Mariupol, Ukraine on Wednesday. The intensity of the siege in the city has made it dangerous for human rights monitors to work there. (Alexander Ermoshenko/Reuters)

It is especially difficult for his team to get information about areas and towns under heavy fire, such as the southeastern city of Mariupol.

“It’s kind of like a black hole. It’s very difficult to get information from those areas,” Bogner said.

“There is no electricity, communications have been cut off, so it is difficult to fully collect and verify casualties from these areas – and we know casualties are high in these areas.”

Experts told CBC it could take years to determine the exact number of civilian casualties.

Bogner added that even in some non-besieged areas, the UN team may encounter difficulties in collecting information on civilian casualties.

“It is also difficult to reach people in areas that have been occupied by the Russian Federation, because people are often afraid to speak out and to speak openly, she said.

But in areas that the team can reach, the fact that the UN human rights monitoring mission has been there since the start of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict in 2014 has been an advantage.

“We have strong networks across the country, a lot of people know our work and trust our work and so talk to us,” Bogner said.

His team also visited prisoners of war to ensure that international laws and human rights were respected.

Canada, authorities condemn civilian deaths

The Ukrainian government has reported finding dead civilians in the suburbs of kyiv from which Russia has withdrawn.

The Canadian government has said it will take action to punish those responsible for the atrocities.

“We strongly condemn the killing of civilians in Ukraine, remain committed to holding the Russian regime accountable, and will continue to do all we can to support the people of Ukraine,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in a tweet on Sunday.

“Those responsible for these blatant and appalling attacks will be brought to justice.”

“Reports of the senseless killing of innocent civilians in Ukraine, including in Bucha, are shocking. Canada will spare no effort, including war crimes investigations, to ensure those responsible are held accountable,” Global Affairs Canada wrote on Twitter.

Bob Rae, Canada’s ambassador to the UN, said on Twitter that the victims ensure Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “fate is sealed”.

“The name of #Vladimir Poutine will forever be associated with crimes of cruelty and savagery. #Bucha, #Mariepol and countless others will enter our consciousness and be linked to his name until the end of time. No armistice or treaty will change that,” Rae said.

In an open letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Sunday, Ukrainian Canadian Congress President Alexandra Chyczij called on Canada and its allies to provide Ukraine with military aid – including fighter jets and tanks – to avoid civilian casualties in Ukraine.

“The international community is signaling to Russia that the world is ready to stand by while Russia commits genocide. What if our policy were to continue to be guided by a desire not to ‘provoke’ Russia – rather than a desire to help Ukraine win this war – the next few days and weeks will bring more Buchas,” she said.

Bogner said Ukrainian local authorities had resorted to digging mass graves to rest the dead in.

“We have documented evidence of makeshift graves. These are graves that have been set up by local authorities and volunteers etc. to care for people who die there but cannot be buried in regular cemeteries. because it’s too dangerous to take them there,” she said.

“We know of at least three of these larger graves, but we know that people also buried the dead in gardens, in other spaces, with one, two, maybe three bodies.”

Bogner said the best solution right now would be humanitarian corridors so civilians in towns like Mariupol can get to safety.

LOOK | Ukraine’s civilian death toll is likely “much higher” than expected, the UN warns:

Civilian deaths in Ukraine likely ‘much higher’ than expected, warns UN

The United Nations warns that the civilian death toll in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine could be far worse than reported. Rosemary Barton Live speaks with Matilda Bogner, head of the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine, about the state of the country and the push for accountability. 7:38

Many of those still in the city are particularly vulnerable, she said.

“Unfortunately, it is the most vulnerable people who remain in a city like Mariupol,” she said.

“Others have found ways, often dangerous ones, but they have found ways to leave, and those who remain are elderly people, people with disabilities or people who for other reasons simply do not have been able to use transport etc to get out of town.”

While the UN documentation of civilian casualties is partly aimed at holding Russia to account, Bogner says preventing harm to civilians in the first place cannot be overlooked in the team’s work.

“Right now the violations are continuing, and we want to see them stop, we want to see them diminish and stop as quickly as possible,” she said.