A total of 2,593 people, including civilians as well as Ukrainian and separatist combatants, have been killed in fighting in eastern Ukraine since it erupted in mid-April, a senior U.N. human rights official said on Friday. "The trend is clear and alarming. There is a significant increase in the death toll in the east," Ivan Simonovic, U.N. Assistant Secretary General for Human Rights, told journalists. "The current number of killed is 2,593 - close to 3,000 if we include the 298 victims of the MH17 (Malaysian airliner) plane crash," he said.
Simonovic, presenting a report by a U.N. monitoring mission, said civilian casualties would continue to rise "as each side increases its strength, through mobilization, better organization or the deployment of new fighters and more sophisticated weapons and support from outside." The death toll was nearly 400 more than that given in the report, which covered the period up to August 17. Simonovic said that the alleged increased participation of foreign fighters in the hostilities - a reference to Russian troops and volunteer fighters - was especially disturbing.