Civilian death toll in Ukraine tops 10,000 - U.N. Human Rights Office

Firefighters work at a site damaged during a Russian missile strike, in Kyiv

GENEVA (Reuters) -More than 10,000 civilians have been killed in Ukraine since Russia invaded in February 2022, with about half of recent deaths occurring far behind the front lines, the U.N. Human Rights Office said on Tuesday.

The U.N. human rights mission in Ukraine, which has dozens of monitors in the country, said it expects the real toll to be "significantly higher" than the official tally since corroboration work is ongoing.

This includes events in the first months after the invasion, such as the battle for control of Mariupol, where residents reported high civilian casualties.

"Ten thousand civilian deaths is a grim milestone for Ukraine," said Danielle Bell, who heads the monitoring mission.

"The Russian Federation's war against Ukraine, now entering into its 21st month, risks evolving into a protracted conflict, with the severe human cost being painful to fathom," she said.

The vast majority of the deaths have been caused by explosive weapons with a wide-area impact such as shells, missiles and cluster munitions, the United Nations said.

Close to half of the deaths in the last three months have occurred far beyond the front lines, the U.N. said, attributing this to Russian forces' use of long-range missiles and the late explosion of abandoned ordinances.

Older people who may be unable or unwilling to relocate to safer places make up a disproportionate fraction of those killed in Ukraine, the U.N. data showed.

More than a third of the victims whose ages were confirmed were over 60, it showed, whereas this age group constitutes just a quarter of the total population.

Moscow denies deliberately targeting civilians.

(Reporting by Emma Farge, Editing by Andrew Heavens, Bernadette Baum and Nick Zieminski)