Amnesty deplores ‘distress and anger’ caused by Ukraine report


A controversial report alleging Ukraine’s military violations of international law caused the head of Amnesty Ukraine to resign in protest.

Amnesty International said it deeply regrets the distress and anger caused after it alleged that Ukrainian troops are violating international law by exposing civilians to Russian fire.

The rights group said “we fully support our findings”, but emphasized that “nothing we have documented that Ukrainian armed forces in any way justifies Russian violations”.

Amnesty sparked outrage in Ukraine with the release of a report Thursday accusing the military of endangering civilians by establishing bases in schools and hospitals and launching counter-attacks from densely populated areas.

The head of Amnesty’s Ukraine office, Oksana Pokalchuk, resigned in protest, accusing the rights organization of copying Kremlin propaganda.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said the group was trying to “shift responsibility from the aggressor to the victim”.

Amnesty’s report noted incidents where Ukrainian troops appeared to have exposed civilians to danger in 19 towns and villages in the Kharkov, Donbas and Mykolaiv regions.

In its statement on Sunday, the rights group declined to go back on that assessment.

“[Amnesty] have found instances where Ukrainian troops were located right next to civilians, potentially putting them at risk from incoming Russian fire,” it said.

“We made this assessment based on the rules of international humanitarian law, which oblige all parties to a conflict to avoid, as far as possible, military targets in or near highly populated areas.”

Nevertheless, Amnesty acknowledged the magnitude of the reactions her report had provoked.

“Amnesty International deeply regrets the distress and anger caused by our press release about the combat tactics of the Ukrainian army,” it said.

Since Russia invaded in February, Amnesty said it has interviewed hundreds of Ukrainian victims “whose stories highlight the brutal reality of Russia’s war of aggression”.

“We have challenged the world to show its solidarity with Ukrainians through concrete action, and we will continue to do so.”

The former head of Amnesty for Ukraine, Pokalchuk, spoke to Al Jazeera in July about war crimes. “Amnesty International has investigated and documented alleged war crimes abuses by Russia and Russian-backed forces, as well as the Ukrainian armed forces,” she noted at the time.

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