(QHA) -

A senior UN official says the death toll in the conflict in eastern Ukraine exceeds 5,358 and urged all sides to halt a potentially "catastrophic" escalation in fighting between government forces and Russian-backed separatists.

In a statement issued on February 3, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein said that at least 224 civilians were killed and 545 wounded as fighting intensified in the last three weeks of January.

The statement said the estimate of at least 5,358 people killed and 12,235 wounded since mid-April was "conservative" and that UN agencies believe the actual number of deaths is "considerably higher."

"Any further escalation will prove catastrophic for the 5.2 million people living in the midst of conflict in eastern Ukraine," Zeid said. 

He called on governments and "all those with influence in the region to take measures to ensure full compliance" with a cease-fire and peace plan signed in Minsk in September, the statement said.