UN Report Uncovers ‘Fear Factor’ in Russian-Held Ukraine

Based on over 2,300 testimonies from victims and witnesses, the report details measures taken by Russia to impose Russian language, citizenship, laws, court system and education curricula in the occupied areas, while at the same time suppressing expressions of Ukrainian culture and identity, and dismantling its governance and administrative systems.

“The actions of the Russian Federation have ruptured the social fabric of communities and left individuals isolated, with profound and long-lasting consequences for Ukrainian society as a whole,” said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk.

Although the Russian Federation initiated its annexation of Ukrainian territory in Crimea in 2014, the report concentrates on the aftermath of the full-scale invasion in February 2022.

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Widespread violations

Russian armed forces, operating with “generalized impunity”, committed widespread violations, including arbitrary detentions often accompanied by torture and ill-treatment, sometimes culminating in enforced disappearances.

“While Russian armed forces initially targeted individuals perceived as posing a security threat, over time a wider net was cast broadly to include any person perceived to oppose the occupation,” OHCHR said in a news release accompanying the report.

Peaceful protests were suppressed, free expression curtailed and residents’ movements severely restricted, it added, noting also that homes and businesses were pillaged and Ukrainian internet and communication networks were shut down, severing ties with independent news sources and isolating the population.

“People were encouraged to inform on one another, leaving them afraid even of their own friends and neighbours.”

Children worst affected

According to the report, children bore the brunt of the impact, with Ukrainian curricula replaced by Russian curriculum in many schools and introduced textbooks with narratives seeking to justify the armed attack on Ukraine.

Russia also enlisted children into youth groups to inculcate Russian expression of patriotism.

The report added that residents of occupied areas were coerced into taking Russian passports. Those who refused were singled out, facing harsher restrictions on their movement, and were progressively denied employment in the public sector, access to healthcare and social security benefits.

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A landmine warning sign behind a fence of a destroyed house in Posad-Pokrovske in the Kherson region of Ukraine. (file)

Collapsed local economy

The report also detailed the situation in areas recaptured by Ukrainian forces in late 2022, including Mykolaiv and parts of Kharkiv and Kherson regions.

“The invasion, occupation and subsequent recapture by Ukraine of these areas left behind damaged homes and infrastructure, land contaminated by mines and explosive remnants of war, pillaged resources, a collapsed local economy and a traumatized, mistrustful community,” the report said.

It added that the Ukrainian Government faced the challenge of rebuilding and restoring services in these areas, while having to contend with legacies of violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law during the occupation.

‘Overly broad’ Ukrainian legal provision

The report also expressed concern that an “overly broad and imprecise provision” of the Ukrainian Criminal Code led to people being prosecuted under charges of collaboration with the occupying authorities for actions that can be lawfully compelled by the occupying authorities under international humanitarian law, such as work to ensure essential services.

“Such prosecutions have tragically led to some people being victimized twice – first under the Russian occupation and then again when they are prosecuted for collaboration,” High Commissioner Türk cautioned, urging Ukraine to revise its approach to such prosecutions.

He further reiterated his call on Russia to immediately cease its armed attack against Ukraine and withdraw to internationally recognized borders, in line with the relevant UN General Assembly resolutions and international law.



  1. Widespread violations committed by Russian armed forces in the occupied areas of Ukraine are deeply concerning. The report highlights the alarming extent of human rights abuses, showing a blatant disregard for the well-being of the local population. It is imperative that international pressure is increased to hold Russia accountable for their actions and protect the rights of those affected.

  2. It is deeply troubling to see the devastating impact of Russia’s actions in Ukraine, as detailed in this report. The blatant violations of human rights and suppression of Ukrainian culture cannot be overlooked. The international community must take decisive action to hold Russia accountable and support the resilience of Ukrainian society.

  3. It is truly concerning to see the extent to which the Russian Federation continues to suppress Ukrainian culture and identity in the occupied areas. The violations outlined in the UN report paint a bleak picture of the fear and isolation faced by the individuals living under Russian control. These actions are tearing apart the social fabric of communities and will have long-lasting consequences for Ukrainian society as a whole.

  4. Russian armed forces are clearly crossing moral boundaries with their actions in Ukrainian territories. It is unacceptable for a country to impose its language, laws, and culture on another sovereign nation. The UN report sheds light on the fear and suffering experienced by Ukrainian communities under Russia’s occupation. These violations must be addressed promptly and justice served for the victims.

  5. Do you think the international community will take strong action against these violations uncovered in the report?

    1. Yes, I believe the international community must come together and take decisive action in response to the disturbing violations outlined in the report. It is crucial to hold accountable those responsible for such egregious human rights abuses, and to ensure justice and protection for the victims impacted by these actions.

  6. As an advocate for human rights, I am deeply troubled by the violations outlined in this report. It’s appalling to see the level of suppression and abuse faced by the Ukrainian community under Russian occupation. The international community must take urgent action to address these atrocities and support the victims in rebuilding their shattered communities.

  7. Widespread violations have been committed by the Russian armed forces in Ukrainian areas under occupation. The report highlights the grim reality of arbitrary detentions, torture, and enforced disappearances, ultimately causing immense suffering to individuals. It is distressing to witness the suppression of peaceful protests and curtailment of free expression, further isolating the affected communities. The corrosive impact of these actions on Ukrainian society cannot be understated.

    1. To help stop these violations and restore peace in the region, international diplomatic efforts must be intensified, sanctions against Russia strengthened, and support for Ukrainian civil society and human rights defenders increased. It’s crucial for the global community to unite in condemning these actions and work towards holding those responsible for the violations to account.

  8. Could you elaborate more on the specific actions taken by the Russian Federation to suppress expressions of Ukrainian culture and identity in the occupied areas mentioned in the article?

    1. To suppress Ukrainian culture and identity in the occupied areas, the Russian Federation imposed restrictions on Ukrainian language use, banned cultural events and symbols, and enforced Russian language dominance in education and media. These actions aimed to erase Ukrainian heritage and assimilate the population into Russian culture and identity.

  9. As evidenced in the UN report, the actions of the Russian Federation have caused significant harm to Ukrainian society, with Russian armed forces committing widespread violations and suppressing basic freedoms. The findings underscore the urgent need for international intervention to address the violations and protect human rights.

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