The UN human rights chief said Monday at least 102 civilians, including seven children, had been killed in Ukraine since Russia invaded five days ago, warning true numbers could be far higher.
Speaking before the UN Human Rights Council, Michelle Bachelet said her office had recorded 406 civilian casualties in Ukraine, including 102 deaths, since Russia began its full-scale attack last Thursday.
“Most of these civilians were killed by explosive weapons with a wide impact area, including shelling from heavy artillery and multi-launch rocket systems, and airstrikes,” she said, warning “the real figures are, I fear, considerably higher”.
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said the suffering in Ukraine was widespread.
“Millions of civilians, including vulnerable and older people, are forced to huddle in different forms of bomb shelters, such as underground stations, to escape explosions,” she said.
She pointed out that the UN refugee agency has already tallied 368,000 people fleeing the country as refugees, with many more displaced inside Ukraine.
“My thoughts go out to them and to all those across the world who suffer,” she said.
“The calls for peace and human rights that are coming from individuals all over the world warn us that our future must not be a world that has become unmoored from the jointly agreed obligations of international human rights law, and from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”
Bachelet’s comments came at the start of the UN rights council’s main annual session, which began with a vote to host an urgent debate on the Ukraine conflict later this week.
Ukraine, which had requested the debate, is expected to present a resolution calling for an investigation into Moscow’s violations in the country.
Russia had rejected Ukraine’s request for the debate and demanded the issue be put to a vote, but a large majority of the 47 council members supported Kyiv’s request.
Ukraine’s ambassador in Geneva, Yevheniia Filipenko, described Russia’s actions as an attack on the wider international community.
“It was an attack not only on Ukraine, it was an attack on every UN member state, on the United Nations and on the principles that this organisation was created to defend,” she said.
She said over 350 people had been killed in the five days since the invasion began, including 16 children.
At least 18 anti-coup protesters were killed Sunday in one of the deadliest days since Myanmar was thrust back under military rule, as a group of ousted MPs urged citizens to “defend themselves” during the nation’s “darkest moment”.
Myanmar has been in turmoil since the military wrenched civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi from power in a February 1 putsch, triggering a mass uprising that has seen hundreds of thousands protest daily for a return to democracy.
The junta has repeatedly justified its power grab by alleging widespread electoral fraud in November’s elections, which Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party won by a landslide.
In response, a group of elected MPs, many of whom are in hiding, have formed a shadow “parliament” called the Committee for Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw (CRPH) — the Burmese word for the country’s governing bloc — to denounce the military regime.
They issued a statement Sunday saying protesters had the “full right to defend themselves” under the country’s penal code against security forces who are “harming and causing violence”.
Soldiers and police have in recent weeks been staging near-daily crackdowns against demonstrators calling for a return to democracy — deploying tear gas, rubber bullets and live rounds to quell anti-coup protests.
More than 80 have been killed, but the number is expected to increase dramatically after Sunday’s violence — marking it as one of the deadliest days as Myanmar enters its seventh week under a junta regime.
In Yangon’s massive Hlaing Tharyar township, police and soldiers faced off against protesters wielding sticks and knives as they hid behind makeshift barricades, fleeing after the security forces opened fire.
Protesters — using cut-out trash cans as shields — managed to retrieve the injured, but a doctor said not all could be reached.
“I can confirm 15 have died,” the doctor told AFP, adding that she had treated about 50 people with injuries and expects the death toll to climb.
“I cannot talk much — injured people keep coming,” she said before hanging up.
The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners monitoring group — which verifies arrests and fatalities since the coup — confirmed a higher death toll.
Throughout the day, gunshots were heard continuously by residents hiding in their homes as smoke rose above the streets, while military trucks were sighted driving through Hlaing Tharyar’s streets.
A police officer posted a TikTok video hours before the crackdown, saying in a voiceover that they would be bringing heavy weaponry.
“I will not have mercy on Hlaing Tharyar and they will fight back seriously too because there are all kinds of characters there,” said the officer under the account @aungthuraphyo40.
The video, which was seen and verified by AFP factcheckers, was removed hours later.
– ‘I will fight until the end’ –
State-run media on Sunday evening did not elaborate on the violence, but said five factories in the garment-producing township had been razed.
Among the burned buildings were Chinese-owned factories, said the embassy in Myanmar, condemning the actions of the “destroyers” in a statement posted on their official Facebook.
“The Chinese embassy… quickly urged local police to guarantee the security of Chinese businesses and personnel with effective management,” it said.
“China urges Myanmar to tackle an effective plan by stopping all violence.”
The evening news also confirmed another death in Tamwe township, saying that hundreds of protesters attempted to torch a police station, which caused authorities to open fire to disperse them.
Similar scenes of chaos unfolded throughout the day in other parts of Myanmar — with one shot dead in the northern Hpakant city and another woman killed from a headshot in Mandalay.
Despite the daily bloodshed, those in the anti-coup movement remain defiant, and have hardened in recent weeks.
“I’ve seen the fallen heroes give their lives,” said 21-year-old Ma Khine Lay, admitting she was afraid even as she rebuilt barricades out of bricks and bamboo poles in a Yangon township.
“I will fight until the end.”
– ‘The darkest moment of the nation’ –
The violence came a day after the acting vice president of the CRPH called for the people to continue protesting against the military’s “unjust dictatorship”.
“This is the darkest moment of the nation and the light before the dawn is close,” said Mahn Win Khaing Than in a recorded video posted on the CRPH’s Facebook page Saturday night.
A high-ranking NLD politician who served as speaker of the house during Suu Kyi’s previous administration, he was placed under house arrest during the February 1 power grab, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners monitoring group.
His Saturday address was his first appearance as CRPH’s acting vice president, and he echoed the anti-coup movement’s calls for a “federal democracy” — which would allow ethnic minority groups to have a role in Myanmar’s governance.
“This uprising is also the chance for all of us to struggle together hand-in-hand to establish a federal democracy union,” he said.
“The uprising must win.”
The junta — self-anointed as the State Administration Council — has said the CRPH’s formation is akin to “high treason”, which carries a maximum sentence of 22 years in jail.
The number of fatalities in Belgium from the new coronavirus crossed 20,000 on Sunday, health officials said, with more than half the deaths from retirement care homes.
The country, with a population of 11.5 million, has recorded 662,694 cases and 20,038 deaths since the pandemic broke out, the Sciensano public health institute said.
Belgium counts all deaths of people who have had a positive Covid-19 test among virus fatalities, giving it one of the world’s highest death rates with 1,725 per 100,000 people, according to an AFP tally.
During the first wave of the pandemic, Belgium also included people who died and may have had the virus but did not necessarily have a test.
Covid-19 vaccinations began in Belgium on January 5.
Virus deaths in retirement homes reached 10,270 on December 18, the authorities said. Amnesty International had the previous month alleged the authorities had “abandoned” care homes.
During the first wave of the pandemic, Sciensano reported more than 250 deaths a day with a peak of 322 on April 8.
The figures improved during summer but began rising again in October with 218 daily deaths recorded on November 10. The average number of deaths reported last week was 58 a day with about 1,780 infections.
More than 1.9 million people worldwide have now died from the virus, with new variants adding to soaring cases and prompting the re-introduction of restrictions on movement across the globe.
More than 99,000 coronavirus cases were recorded in the United States in the past 24 hours, a new daily record, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.
The country reported 99,660 new infections between 8:30 pm Tuesday and 8:30 pm Wednesday (0130 GMT), and 1,112 deaths, the tally by the Baltimore-based school showed a day after American’s went voted to choose their next president.
More than 9.4 million people have been infected and 233,000 have died in the US so far during the pandemic, by far the worst tolls in absolute terms globally.
The US has recorded more than 60,000 new cases every day for the last six days, peaking at a record 77,638 infections on Friday.
President Donald Trump, in a Fox News interview broadcast on Sunday, again defended his handling of the pandemic, claiming that the US was “the envy of the world” on testing. Referring to his early prediction that the virus would disappear, he said, “I’ll be right eventually.”
He again opposed any national mandate for mask-wearing, saying, “I want people to have a certain freedom.”
Critics are accusing President Jair Bolsonaro of manipulating the figures showing the spiralling coronavirus death toll in Brazil, after his government first stopped reporting the total number of fatalities and infections, and then released conflicting data.
Even as infections soar in Brazil, the latest epicenter in the pandemic, the health ministry has made a series of unusual moves on how it presents the numbers on COVID-19.
The ministry had been the most widely used source for nationwide virus statistics, which paint a grim picture of its impact on Brazil: officially, 37,134 deaths, the third-highest toll in the world, after the United States and Britain; and 707,412 infections, the second-highest caseload, after the US.
Last week, the ministry postponed its daily tally of infections and deaths by around two and a half hours, to just before 10:00 pm.
Critics accused the government of doing that to dodge negative coverage on “Jornal Nacional,” a popular evening news program on Globo TV, Brazil’s biggest broadcaster.
Bolsonaro himself appeared to confirm as much when asked about the delay.
“That’s the end of that story for ‘Jornal Nacional,'” the far-right president said.
Then the ministry stopped publishing the total number of deaths and infections, releasing only the figures for the past 24 hours for the country of 212 million people.
– ‘Statistical coup d’etat’ –
Things only got more muddled on Sunday, when the ministry released two different daily tolls, without initially explaining why or indicating which was correct.
It explained Monday that the previous day’s figures had been corrected because some data supplied by state health officials included duplicates.
It also said it had adopted a new methodology, with a new website, where victims will be counted under the day they died, rather than the day that posthumous testing confirmed a COVID-19 diagnosis.
“There are cases where lab results are for deaths that occurred weeks ago,” it said in a statement.
“The curve by date of death… helps understand the dynamic of the disease and how the authorities need to concentrate their efforts.”
It also moved the daily update back up to 6:00 pm.
But critics have been brutal.
“This is a statistical coup d’etat,” said newspaper Folha de Sao Paulo, one of Brazil’s most-read, in a scathing editorial.
“Manipulating the number of dead in a pandemic is a crime,” said influential columnist Miriam Leitao in newspaper Globo.
Top media groups, including Folha and Globo, announced they were teaming up to release their own daily figures based on data collected directly from state health officials.
Already, their toll diverges from the official one, with 178 more deaths and 3,475 more infections.
Congress said it, too, would set up an independent count.
– ‘Totalitarian regime’ –
Brazil’s health ministry is currently run by an interim minister, whose two predecessors were ousted mid-pandemic after disagreements with Bolsonaro.
The president has famously compared the new coronavirus to a “little flu” and railed against stay-at-home measures to contain it, citing their economic toll.
Former health minister Luiz Henrique Mandetta, who was fired by Bolsonaro in April, said the handling of the data shows “the government is more harmful than the virus.”
Criticism over the data confusion only increased when well-known businessman Carlos Wizard, who had been tapped to serve as a top adviser in the health ministry, said Friday that the government’s official figures to date were “fantastical and manipulated.”
That outraged state health officials who provide the underlying data. They accused the government of trying to make coronavirus victims “invisible.”
Wizard later apologized to victims’ families over the remark, and withdrew his candidacy for the health ministry post after online protesters threatened to boycott his companies.
The government has become the butt of jokes for its approach to the numbers.
When it began putting the number of recovered patients in larger font than the number of dead on its website, one social media user snickered it was like describing Brazil’s humiliating 7-1 loss to Germany in the 2014 World Cup by saying, “Brazil scored one goal, with 52 percent ball possession and eight shots on goal.”
Others are less amused.
“Manipulating statistics is a move used by totalitarian regimes,” Supreme Court Justice Gilmar Mendes wrote on Twitter.
The death toll from China’s new coronavirus epidemic jumped past 2,000 on Wednesday after 136 more people died, with the number of new cases falling for a second straight day, according to the National Health Commission.
This brings the total number of confirmed cases in mainland China to 74,185.
The death toll rose to 2,004, with most of the deaths in central Hubei province, where the virus first emerged in December before spiralling into a nationwide epidemic.
In its daily update, the National Health Commission reported 1,749 new cases of people infected with the virus nationwide, the lowest number of new cases this month.
The number of fatalities and new cases from China’s coronavirus outbreak soared on Thursday, with 242 more deaths and nearly 15,000 extra patients in hard-hit Hubei province as authorities changed their threshold for diagnosis.
At least 1,355 people have now died nationwide and nearly 60,000 have been infected after Hubei’s health commission reported the new numbers.
In its daily update, Hubei’s health commission confirmed another 14,840 new cases in the central province, where the outbreak emerged in December.
The huge jump came as local officials said they were changing the way they diagnose COVID-19 cases.
Three policemen and a villager died Thursday in rare violent clashes with Vietnam’s communist authorities over disputed land around a military-owned Hanoi airport.
Construction of the Mieu Mon facility has been a long-running sore for villagers who say it is being built on land illegally seized by the military.
Clashes erupted on Thursday before dawn when authorities attempting to erect a perimeter fence were met by residents armed with “grenades, petrol bombs and knives”, the Ministry of Public Security said in a statement.
The “social disorder” led to the “deaths of three policemen and one resident”, the statement said, adding other villagers were “arrested for serious violations of the law”.
It was not immediately possible to confirm the toll or verify the authorities’ version of events, disseminated with unusual speed in a country where secrecy and control normally trump transparency.
But a video widely circulated on Facebook by an activist at the scene appeared to show gunfire lighting up the dawn gloom around the village as several truckloads of security guards arrived.
Human Rights Watch urged Vietnam to launch an investigation that “gets to the bottom of what happened” and to provide unfettered access to the site for impartial observers including journalists, diplomats and UN officials.
Land disputes are common in Vietnam, where powerful individuals and companies often make claims on property.
The government strictly controls freedom of expression and the right to protest but flashpoints occur.
In 2017 villagers held more than a dozen police officers and officials, hostage, for several days at the airport site in a standoff that gripped the tightly-controlled country.
A jihadist attack on a military base in Kenya killed three people Sunday, including a US service member and two civilian defense contractors, the American military said.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends of our teammates who lost their lives today,” General Stephen Townsend, the head of US Africa Command (Africom), said after jihadists from Somalia’s Al-Shabaab group stormed a base in the Lamu region.
Two other Department of Defense personnel were wounded in the attack on Camp Simba, Africom added in a statement which gave no details on the identity of those killed.