The new United Nations rights chief voiced alarm at the escalating conflict in Ukraine when he arrived at his post on Monday, Oct.17, insisting that civilians must be protected.

“Any escalation in warfare is deeply troubling to us, and it’s happening in Ukraine,” UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk told reporters in Geneva on his first day on the job.

Earlier on Monday, Kyiv was hit by a barrage of attacks by what the Ukrainian president’s office said were “kamikaze drones”.

Those attacks came exactly a week after Russia unleashed a massive wave of missile strikes on the Ukrainian capital and cities across the country.

“We have received reports from our colleagues on the ground about these drone attacks,” said Turk, who is succeeding former Chilean president Michelle Bachelet at the helm of the UN rights office.

“It is absolutely important that civilian objects, civilians, are not targeted”, he said, warning, “This is very difficult in densely populated urban areas.”

Turk, an Austrian national who has spent most of his career within the UN system, stressed that respect for international law was “absolutely critical”.

“The big call is to de-escalate and to find ways and means to respect international law,” he said.

“Ultimately, it is about human beings who are not involved in warfare, and they need to be protected.”

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