The new UN rights chief expressed alarm at the escalating conflict in Ukraine as he began his post on Monday, insisting that civilians must be protected.
“Any escalation of war worries us deeply, and it is happening in Ukraine,” the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights told reporters in Geneva on his first day on the job.
Earlier Monday, Russia launched a new attack on Kyiv using what the Ukrainian president’s office said were “kamikaze drones.”
“We have received reports from our colleagues on the ground about these drone strikes,” said Turk, who succeeds former Chilean president Michelle Bachelet as head of the UN rights office.
“It is absolutely important that civilian objects, civilians, are not targeted,” he said, warning that “this is very difficult in densely populated urban areas.”
Monday’s attacks came exactly a week after Moscow unleashed a massive two-day wave of missile attacks in the Ukrainian capital and across the country.
Read more: Ukrainian official calls for Russia to be excluded from G20 after Kyiv attack
The deadly attacks on October 10-11 marked the biggest wave of strikes in months in the conflict that began with Russia’s full-scale invasion on February 24 and sparked an international outcry.
Turk, a 57-year-old Austrian national and UN veteran, stressed that respect for international law was “absolutely critical”.
“The big call is de-escalation and finding ways and means to respect international law,” he said.
“Ultimately, these are human beings who are not involved in war, and they need to be protected.”
Turk, who most recently served as Assistant Secretary-General for Policy to UN chief Antonio Guterres, said he was taking on his new job at “a very critical time”.