The International Committee of the Red Cross is extremely concerned that the conflict in Ukraine is affecting very densely populated areas, including the capital Kyiv and other major cities, and ICRC delegation in Kyiv said in a press statement.
As the conflict evolves and escalates, the anguish and fear people have endured for the past three days deepen, the statement added.
Sunday morning brought reports of air raid sirens and explosions in Kyiv, and a curfew is in place in the city until Monday. This comes as the city’s residents flocked to subway stations to seek shelter.
“As we have seen time and time again in our work all over the world, when neighbourhoods become the frontline, the consequences for people — including children, the sick, and the elderly — are simply devastating,” said Head of the ICRC delegation in Kyiv Florence Gillette.
“We are calling urgently on parties to the conflict not to forget their obligations under international humanitarian law. They must ensure the protection of the civilian population and those no longer taking part in the fighting, such as detainees or the wounded and sick.”
International humanitarian law is clear: All parties to the conflict have a legal obligation to ensure that military operations are planned and conducted in a way as to ensure the protection of civilians and civilian objects.
This comes as Head of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees Filippo Grandi said that the number of people who have fled Ukraine has now surpassed 368,000.
The ICRC called on all parties to take all feasible precautions to avoid civilian injuries and loss of life.
“Indiscriminate attacks are prohibited, and the ICRC therefore strongly urges the parties to avoid the use of explosive weapons with a wide impact area in populated areas and to avoid locating military objectives within or near such areas,” the statement read.
It further noted that, considering mounting tensions and more arms in the streets, it will also be vital to keep taking steps to ensure law and order is maintained so the civilian population is not placed at further risk.
“After a gruelling eight years of conflict, the last thing people need is more violence, death, destruction, and despair. We call on all states to do everything in their power and influence to avoid escalating a conflict whose cost and consequences for civilian populations outpaces the capacity to protect and assist them.”
The ICRC has been working in Ukraine since 2014. It works closely with the Ukrainian Red Cross Society in providing emergency assistance such as food, water, and other essential items.