A little boy blown up by a mine at the beach. A young mother shot in the forehead. A retired teacher killed in her home. Soldiers killing and dying every day by the hundreds. Older people and young people and everyone in between.
A war can be measured by many metrics. Territory won or lost. Geopolitical influence increased or diminished. Treasure acquired or resources depleted. But for the people suffering under the shelling, who hear the whistling of incoming missiles, the crack of gunfire on the streets and the wails of loss out of shattered windows, the death toll is the most telling account of a war.
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In Ukraine, no one is quite sure exactly what that toll is, except that many many people have been killed.
An “endless caravan of death,” said Petro Andryushchenko, an official for the devastated city of Mariupol.
In its latest updates, the Office of United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights said 4,509 civilians had been killed in the conflict. But it is clear that many thousands more have been killed. Ukraine’s chief of police, Ihor Klymenko, said this past week that prosecutors had opened criminal proceedings “for the deaths of more than 12,000 people who were found, in particular, in mass graves.”
And in Mariupol, the Black Sea city flattened by Russian bombardment, Ukrainian officials in exile have said that examinations of mass graves using satellite imagery, witness testimony and other evidence have led them to believe that at least 22,000 were killed — and possibly thousands more.
The casualty figures exclude the thousands believed killed in territories held by Russian forces. And even where Ukraine has regained control, Mr. Klymenko said, it was premature to calculate the dead in mass graves, as more are found every week.
Indeed, finding and identifying the dead is such a daunting challenge, Ukraine’s chief prosecutor said in a statement on Saturday, that it required global coordination beyond Ukraine’s national efforts. The prosecutor, Iryna Venediktova, said she had met with the International Commission on Missing Persons, based in The Hague, to develop avenues for cooperation.
International and Ukrainian authorities have little access to embattled cities to take accurate counts, and the urban targets, the constant artillery fire and the static nature of the fighting in the contested south and east only adds to the death and horror.
“People are killed indiscriminately or suddenly or without rhyme or reason,” said Richard H. Kohn, a professor emeritus of history and peace, war and defense at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He said the incessant artillery fire “kills and maims people.”
“It creates enormous psychological stress on populations,” Mr. Kohn said, “as it does on the combatants,” and “it lasts for a very long time.”
The Russians, eager to preserve an aura of competence, underreport their battlefield losses. The Ukrainians, desperate to maintain morale as the shells fall, do the same. Civilian casualties are an unknown variable, multiplied by grisly factors like collapsing buildings and the unreported victims of occupied towns.
Children are not protected from the indiscriminate violence. The United Nations’ agency for the protection of children in emergency situations has estimated that at least three children have died each day since the war started in February. That is only an estimate.
Mariupol — the city that has become symbolic of Ukraine’s resistance, Russia’s unrelenting shelling and the war’s savagery — is still burying corpses.
“In our city, there are a lot of mass graves, a lot of spontaneous graves, and some bodies are still in the street,” Mariupol’s mayor, Vadym Boichenko, said last Monday.
That toll has heightened dread about the losses in the 20 percent of Ukraine now under Russian occupation. Some places, like Sievierodonetsk, have been basically reduced to rubble by advancing Russian forces.
Early in the war, as Russia tried, and failed, to take the capital, Kyiv, its forces added to the death toll with shocking brutality. In Bucha, they shot civilians dead in their cars, homes and gardens, left corpses in the street and even burned them and dumped them in a parking lot. And when the Russian armored columns retreated, they left more dead in their wake.
At least 1,500 civilians were killed in the Kyiv region alone, according to Mr. Klymenko. They included two sisters in Bucha — one a retired teacher and the other disabled.
“Why would you kill a grandma?” asked Serhiy, a neighbor of the sisters.
The Ukrainian army is taking heavy losses. By the government’s own estimates, as many as 200 soldiers are dying every day. In towns and cities across the country, even those far from the front lines, military funerals take place nearly daily for Ukrainian soldiers killed in the Luhansk and Donetsk regions, where the fighting is now heaviest.
The dead are often buried quickly, and in shallow graves.
“I feel numb,” said Antoniy, a morgue worker in Lviv, in western Ukraine. “Even when someone is telling me a joke that I know is funny, I can’t laugh.”
Regardless of when or how the war ends, Professor Kohn said, trauma, loss, displacement and fear all become “part of the culture of a country.”
Many of the Russians ordered by President Vladimir V. Putin to invade Ukraine under the false pretenses of liberating the country from Nazis are not coming home, either. In April, Western countries estimated that Russia had lost about 15,000 soldiers in Ukraine; on Friday, Ukraine put the estimate at 33,000.
The true toll is unknown, and will not be coming from Moscow: Its last announcement, on March 25, said that a total of 1,351 Russian soldiers had died.
In the months after the invasion began, local news websites across Russia compiled “memory pages” that listed the names of hometown soldiers who had died. Then, this month, they deleted them: A court ruled that such lists were state secrets.
“We apologize,” said the site 74.ru in Chelyabinsk in Siberia, “to the mothers and fathers, wives and children, relatives and friends of the servicemen who have died during the special military operation in Ukraine.”
In a Russian-occupied village, five men went off to feed cattle. Their relatives and neighbors are wondering what happened to them.
HUSARIVKA, Ukraine — The cows wouldn’t stop screaming.
Russian soldiers had occupied this remote village in eastern Ukraine for about two weeks and were using a farm as a base. But the animals at the farm hadn’t been fed. Their incessant bleating was wearing on both occupiers and townspeople.
A group of five residents from Husarivka, an unassuming agricultural village of around 1,000 people, went to tend the cattle.
They were never heard from again.
“My two nephews disappeared. They went to feed the cows on the farm,” said Svitlana Tarusyna, 70. “They are gone, vanished.”
What transpired in Husarivka has all the horrifying elements of the more widely publicized episodes involving Russian brutality: indiscriminate killings, abuse and torture taking place over the better part of a month.
considering applying for membership in the alliance. Dmitri A. Medvedev, Russia’s former president and prime minister, said Moscow would be forced to “seriously strengthen” its defenses in the Baltics if the two countries were to join.
The five men fed the cows and tended to their duties. But as they left, something on the farm exploded, residents recalled. Whether it was an artillery strike or an attempt at sabotage is unclear, but it seemed to contribute to their disappearance; Mr. Doroshenko stated that the Russians captured the men after the explosion. It is possible they were behind some type of attack on the Russian headquarters.
“They only got to the crossroad and were seized,” Mr. Doroshenko said.
Two other people near the farm also went missing that day, Mr. Doroshenko added. Roughly a week later, on March 24, a Russian sniper shot and killed Andriy Mashchenko as he rode home on his bicycle. He had been sheltering in a neighbor’s basement during an artillery barrage. He died on Peace Street.
Under heavy bombardment, the Russians retreated from Husarivka about two days later, and Ukrainian forces swept through afterward. The town’s casualty tally during the occupation: seven people missing, two killed by gunfire and at least two by shelling.
Evidence scattered around the town showed how artillery had ruled the day. Spent rockets lay in fields. Roofs were caved in. The rusted hulks of Russian vehicles were seemingly everywhere. In one armored personnel carrier, the corpse of what was presumed to be a Russian soldier remained, barely recognizable as someone’s son.
But as Ukrainian soldiers sifted through the battlefield wreckage after their victory, they found something on Petrusenko Street. It was in a backyard basement sealed shut by a rusted metal door.
“In this cellar the bodies were found,” said Olexiy, a chief investigator in the region who declined to provide his last name for security reasons. He gestured down into a soot-covered hole. “They were covered by car tires and burned,” he said.
“There is no way to tell the cause of their death,” he added, “We found three hands, two legs, three skulls.”
The bodies have yet to be identified, he said. Residents of Husarivka believe the three had been part of the group of five who disappeared. Images provided to The New York Times clearly showed that a rubber work boot was melted to the foot of one leg.
But hauntingly, no one knows for sure what happened to the five men. Many of the cows they went to feed ended up being killed by the shelling.
PARIS — A French journalist who went missing in Mali last month said in a video that circulated Wednesday on social media, but that could not be independently verified, that he had been kidnapped by a jihadist group operating in the region as he appealed for help from the authorities in France.
The 21-second clip appears to show Olivier Dubois, a French journalist based in Mali who disappeared there in early April, sitting cross-legged in what seems to be a tent.
After identifying himself, Mr. Dubois says in the video that he was kidnapped on April 8 in Gao, a town in central Mali, by a local Islamist group affiliated with Al Qaeda that is known as JSIM, an acronym for Group to Support Islam and Muslims.
“I am speaking to my family, to my friends and to the French authorities so that they do everything that is in their power to free me,” Mr. Dubois says in the video.
But the release of the video appeared to force the group and the French authorities to issue their first public comments on Mr. Dubois’ disappearance.
said in an article on Wednesday that in late March he had pitched the newspaper a face-to-face interview with a JSIM midlevel lieutenant in Gao, Abdallah Ag Albakaye.
“Olivier has solid contacts in the jihadist sphere, he has known some of them for years,” Libération wrote. “They were vouching for his safety.”
Libération turned down the pitch because of the risks involved, the newspaper wrote. Still, Mr. Dubois flew from Bamako to Gao. There, he spent several hours at his hotel and left for lunch. But two days later, he did not show up for his return flight to Bamako and was reported missing by the French Embassy in Mali, Libération said.
“The report of this reporter’s abduction is another cruel blow to journalism in the Sahel,” Arnaud Froger, the head of Reporters Without Borders’ Africa desk, said in a statement, referring to the sub-Saharan region that stretches from Senegal to Sudan.
Armed groups operating in Mali and other countries in the Sahel have made it increasingly difficult for journalists to report from the region. Last month, two Spanish journalists making a documentary about anti-poaching efforts and an Irish ranger were kidnapped and killed in Burkina Faso.
Central and northern Mali have become especially dangerous since 2013, when France sent its forces into the West African country, a former French colony, after armed Islamists took control of its northern cities.
French and Malian forces have struggled to stop a range of extremist groups, some of them affiliated with Al Qaeda or the Islamic State, that have spread violence across the border area of Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger and elsewhere in the region.
In 2013, two French journalists working for Radio France Internationale, Ghislaine Dupont and Claude Verlon, were killed by Islamist insurgents in Mali, in circumstances that have remained murky to this day.
Mali has undergone severe institutional instability over the past year. After months of ballooning protests over corruption, bloodshed, and election interference, a coup in August toppled the president, Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta, and replaced him with Bah N’Daou, a retired colonel and former defense minister.
ROME — To most eyes, the scruffy, sun-faded ship that left Venice for Sicily last week might have looked like a junkyard-ready wreck.
Instead, as the ship embarked upon what may be its final voyage, via barge and tugboat, and arrived in Sicily on Tuesday, others were hoping it would become a monument to the devastating toll exacted by the trafficking of people across the Mediterranean from Africa to Europe by unscrupulous operators.
The ship, the relic of the deadliest wreck in the Mediterranean in living memory, is a symbol of contemporary migration in Europe that has become part of its cultural heritage, said Maria Chiara Di Trapani, an independent curator working on future projects for the vessel.
On April 18, 2015, the unnamed ship — originally built as a fishing vessel for a crew of around 15 — capsized off the coast of Libya, becoming the watery grave for the more than 1,000 people, many from Mali, Mauritius and the Horn of Africa, crammed onboard. Only 28 passengers survived.
Missing Migrants Project run by the International Organization for Migration has recorded a minimum of 12,521 deaths or disappearances during migration across the Central Mediterranean route.
The ship sank after colliding with a Portuguese freighter that had come to its assistance.An analysis of the shipwreck has been treated by migration activists as a case study on the perils of inexpert assistance at sea. The ship was later used as evidence in a case against the Tunisian captain who piloted the ship and in 2018 was convicted of human trafficking.
“The story of the boat is very complex, involving many people,” said Enzo Parisi, the spokesman for the Comitato 18 Aprile, a citizens’ group in Augusta, Sicily, that wants the boat to become a monument, “a testimony to tragedies at sea.”
In June 2016, the Italian government decided to raise the wreck 1,200 feet from the bottom of the sea to identify the victims. The ship was taken to a naval base in Augusta, and the victims were extracted.
laboratory at the University of Milan for the laborious task of cataloging and possible identification.
The ship’s destiny, at that point, was to head to the scrap yard, like hundreds of ships that have been seized by Italian authorities.
But the wreck’s symbolic power had become apparent. In 2019, supported by the Comitato 18 Aprile, Augusta’s municipal council was granted custody of the ship. The region lobbied to have it declared a monument of cultural interest and the committee came up with proposals for a memorial that would have the ship as the centerpiece.
“As a seaport, Augusta has always been welcoming,” said Giuseppe Di Mare, the mayor of the Sicilian city, which is a first landing spot for many migrants rescued in the Mediterranean, before they are processed and shunted off to other Italian cities. Because of the coronavirus, the sea rescues now include an interim stop on quarantine ships, and currently there are two such ships in Augusta’s harbor.
“Barca Nostra,” or “Our Ship” in Italian, the vessel was presented at the art exhibit as a “monument to contemporary migration” and restrictions on personal freedoms.
2019 documentary about the disaster and the attempts to identify the victims, Ms. Mirto counted headstones in a cemetery that read: “Unknown Immigrant Deceased in the Strait of Sicily on 18.4.2015.”
The project to identify victims continues, sponsored by Italy’s special commissioner for missing persons. Dr. Cattaneo, the forensicpathologist who is responsible for the university laboratory in Milan, said that funding shortages had hampered the work, and that, so far, only six victims had been identified using their methodology, which involves comparing the DNA extracted from the victims to the DNA of family members, as well as anthropological and dental traits.
She is hopeful that progress will be made this year, as the university is now working with other academic institutions, as well as Italian law enforcement authorities, but she cautioned that the condition in which researchers had found the bodies after a year under water made everything “extremely complex.”
The International Committee of the Red Cross and other national affiliates have also been involved in identifying the victims of the tragedy. They have adopted a different, complementary, approach, attempting to draft a list of the passengers onboard by cross-referencing the accounts of survivors, witnesses, relatives, friends, as well as from the objects that were recovered from the ship. Currently, they are calling some of the nearly 1,500 phone numbers — which have been tracked to 56 countries — that were found in the wreckage in hopes of gleaning new clues.
have died in the first months of 2021.
The ship will now undergo urgent maintenance, after two years exposed to a north Italian climate.
The city of Augusta has envisioned placing the ship in what the authorities describe as a “Garden of Memory,” that “will have to be in the open, because that boat gives a sense of the sea, the air, the skies. To enclose it in a building would clash with its’ story,” said Mr. Di Mare, the mayor.
“Certainly, the ship has attained an international dimension and we want this garden to become a place of reflection for the world, so that all people can ponder,” he said.
OTTAWA — A two-and-half-year investigation of the Toronto police found that “systemic discrimination” within the force enabled a serial killer to murder eight gay men, mostly of Middle Eastern or South Asian descent, over a span of seven years.
Several times the police interviewed the killer, Bruce McArthur, who was convicted in 2019, butdid not link him to the deaths and released him — allowing him to continue his killing spree.
“There was institutional resistance to the notion that these cases night be linked and that a serial killer might be preying on” Toronto’s L.G.B.T.Q community, Gloria Epstein, a retired justice of the Ontario Court of Appeal, wrote in a report released on Tuesday. “This systemic failure is perhaps the most troubling.”
The investigation found that the police force repeatedly failed to enter evidence linking the killings to Mr. McArthur into case-tracking software.
The report makes 151 recommendations, among them proposals to allow civilians within the Toronto police force to coordinate missing persons investigations; to centralize those inquiries under one police unit; and to conduct them in concert with public health, social service and not-for-profit community groups.
LONDON — A body found this week in a wooded area in southeast England has been identified as Sarah Everard’s, the police said on Friday, ending days of uncertainty over the fate of the 33-year-old marketing executive who disappeared in South London last week.
Her disappearance touched off an outpouring of solidarity and anger against gender violence in Britain.
“Assistant Commissioner Nick Ephgrave has sadly confirmed the body found in the woodland in Kent has been identified as Sarah Everard,” the Metropolitan Police said on Twitter. “Our thoughts are with Sarah’s family and loved ones at this difficult time.”
A police officer was arrested this week in Kent, 80 miles southeast of London, and is being held in custody on suspicion of kidnapping, murder and, in a separate incident, indecent exposure.
reading the names of women who were killed over the past year in which a man was convicted or charged in the case. “Killed women are not vanishing rare, killed women are common.”
LONDON — Thousands of women across Britain have shared stories online of harassment and fear in public spaces after a woman went missing in London last week and a police officer was arrested in connection with the case.
Many women urged the authorities to make streets safer and address gender violence at a time when pandemic lockdown restrictions have emptied the country’s streets.
“We’re scared, we’re shaken and we’re intimidated,” Mandu Reid, the leader of the Women’s Equality Party, who is running for mayor of London in an election in May, said in an interview.
“While we have been confined to our homes, going out for walks has been an important release,” Ms. Reid said. “Now this has happened, and we feel under threat and under siege.”
Sarah Everard, a 33-year-old marketing executive, was last seen on March 3 in the Clapham neighborhood of south London. The police said on Wednesday that human remains had been found as part of their investigation into her disappearance, prompting an outpouring of grief from lawmakers, community leaders and London residents.
70 percent of women in Britain had experienced sexual harassment in public.
Boris Johnson and Mayor Sadiq Khan of London expressed sadness over Ms. Everard’s disappearance. Commissioner Dick called the situation “every family’s worst nightmare.”
Online, women offered countless testimonies about facing catcalls, unwanted attention, threats and assaults in public spaces. As Ms. Everard’s name trended on Twitter in Britain on Thursday, stories included recollections of anxious walks, of being followed in the streets and having to run and of being harassed in a public space.
Women also listed measures they felt compelled to take to mitigate risks, such as sharing with other women the addresses of places they go at night, keeping keys clenched in their hands as a weapon, choosing better-lit routes in the hope of avoiding danger, and having an app that sends a text with the person’s location when it detects a scream.
“Headphones at lowest volume, keys clenched in my hand, rape alarm in my pocket, fearful of the dark at 8.30 p.m.,” Joanna Montgomery, a 43-year-old London resident, wrote on Twitter as she shared a picture of walking two dogs on a street.
hundreds shared tips on how to help women feel less threatened.
While city officials have acknowledged that “too many women feel unsafe when traveling, working or going out at night,” activists and community leaders say little has been done to make the streets safer amid lockdown restrictions, when walking remains one of the few activities that people are allowed to do in public.
Ms. Everard left a friend’s house in south London around 9 p.m. on March 3. Her journey back home should have taken her around 50 minutes, and she was last spotted on CCTV at 9:30 p.m. near a road intersection in a residential area.
Police officers have searched hundreds of houses in the neighborhood, as well as ponds in a park, Clapham Common, that Ms. Everard may have walked through that night.
But hopes that she would be found alive grew slimmer on Wednesday evening, when Ms. Dick said that officers had found human remains in Kent, around 50 miles southeast of London. Ms. Dick said the police could not confirm the identity of the remains, adding that doing so could take “considerable time.”
Ms. Everard’s disappearance is likely to add pressure to Mr. Johnson’s government, which plans to introduce measures to address violence against women and girls this year. According to national statistics, more than 55,000 rapes were recorded in England and Wales in 2019 and 2020, and one in five women in Britain will be subjected to sexual assault during their lifetime.
It was even more shocking to many that the main suspect in Ms. Everard’s disappearance was a police officer. The Metropolitan Police said on Tuesday that the man, in his 40s, had been arrested on Tuesday in Kent and was being kept in custody on suspicion of kidnapping, murder and indecent exposure. A woman in her 30s was arrested at the same location on suspicion of assisting an offender.
The officer, who serves in the Parliamentary and Diplomatic Protection Command, and whose primary role was to patrol diplomatic premises, was not on duty when Ms. Everard disappeared, the police said.
On Wednesday Ms. Dick, the Metropolitan Police commissioner, sought to quell any mistrust the public may have about the force she oversees.
“I speak on behalf of all my colleagues when I say that we are utterly appalled at this dreadful, dreadful news,” she said.
But Ms. Reid, the leader of the Women’s Equality Party, said that even beyond devoting more funding to address gender violence and improving city planning to protect women, the police had a lot to do to win women’s trust.
“It’s not about safety — it’s about freedom in the public space,” Ms. Reid said. “Most of us have accepted that the streets are too dangerous for us,” she added. “But we can’t accept this any longer.”
LONDON — A London police officer was arrested on Tuesday in connection with the disappearance of a woman who went missing last week as she was on her way home in the southern part of the city.
Sarah Everard, 33, left a friend’s house on the evening of March 3 and was last spotted on CCTV in the Clapham neighborhood, according to the Metropolitan Police.
In the week since she was last seen, officers have searched more than 750 houses in South London, extended patrols in the area and urged witnesses to come forward, but the arrest was the most significant development in the case, the police said.
The officer was arrested in Kent, in southeastern England. He was taken into custody along with a woman who was arrested at the same location on suspicion of assisting an offender, the police said, without providing further details about the suspect’s alleged involvement in the case.
have acknowledged that “too many women feel unsafe when traveling, working or going out at night,” little has been done to make the streets safer during the lockdown, when walking is one of the few activities that residents are allowed to do in public.
“Sarah’s disappearance feels so close to the bone because every time women walk alone after dark, however subconsciously, we carry the fear that something awful might happen,” Marisa Bate, a freelance writer, said on Twitter.
said, “When people are no longer safe walking home through residential streets of South London isn’t it time for lockdown to end??”
This week, officers searched ponds in Clapham Common and cordoned off a block of apartment buildings near where Ms. Everard disappeared, British news outlets reported. The police were also searching several woodland areas and places in Kent, around 70 miles southeast of London.
London has nearly 700,000 CCTV cameras, according to one estimate, and throughout the week the Metropolitan Police have urged residents to check their private security systems.
“We have seized a number of CCTV recordings, but we know that there are likely to be many more out there,” Detective Chief Inspector Katherine Goodwin said in a statement. “Please, even if you’re not sure, check your doorbell or CCTV footage just in case it holds a clue.”
Pictures released by the Metropolitan Police show Ms. Everard on the night of her disappearance, wearing a green coat and white and blue pants. She also seemed to have been wearing green earphones and a white hat, the police said.
Detective Goodwin said on Tuesday that the case was still being treated as a missing person investigation.
“I want to remain clear that at this time we have no information to suggest that Sarah has come to any harm,” she said. “And we retain an open mind as to the circumstances.”