An Amnesty International report released on Thursday says Ukrainian forces are putting civilians at risk by setting up bases in residential neighborhoods, even as authorities continue to mock Russian armed forces for committing atrocities against Ukrainians.
“Ukrainian forces put civilians at risk by establishing bases and operating weapons systems in populated residential areas, including schools and hospitals, as they repelled the Russian invasion that began in February,” he added. Amnesty International said in a statement. “Such tactics violate international humanitarian law and endanger civilians, as they turn civilian objects into military targets.
The Russian strikes hit civilians in populated areas where Ukraine has set up bases, Amnesty said.
Ukraine’s tactics have endangered civilians in 19 towns, in part because they launched strikes from residential areas and moved into civilian buildings in Kharkiv, Donbass and Mykolaiv regions, according to the ‘organization.
The NGO said Ukraine’s strategy of placing military operations in populated areas “in no way justifies indiscriminate Russian attacks”.
The report draws criticism from Ukrainians and officials who monitor alleged Russian crimes against humanity. An adviser to Ukrainian President Zelensky, Mykhailo Podolyak, has accused Amnesty International of fueling Russian propaganda that has tried to blame Ukrainians for the death and destruction that followed in a Russian-initiated war.
“Today, Moscow is trying to discredit the armed forces of [Ukraine] in the eyes of Western corporations and disrupt the supply of weapons using the entire network of agents of influence”, Podoliak said on Twitter. “It’s a shame that an organization like @amnesty is involved in this disinformation and propaganda campaign.”
“The only thing that threatens the Ukrainians is [Russia’s] army of executioners and rapists coming [Ukraine] commit genocide,” Podolyak said.
Ukrainian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dmytro Kulebasaid in a video posted on Facebook that the report was not a balanced examination of the war.
“This behavior of Amnesty International is not about finding and letting the world know the truth, but about creating a false balance between the criminal and the victim, between the country that is destroying hundreds and thousands of civilians, cities, entire territories and the country desperately defending itself, saving its people and the continent from this onslaught,” Kuleba said, according to Ukrinform.
Local journalists reported findings that match part of the Amnesty report. Associated Press reporters reported that after Russian strikes on residential buildings in eastern Ukraine, residents said military personnel were staying there. In Kharkiv, AP journalists observed military vehicles at a Russian-hit university, and soldiers and supplies at a school that was also hit.
According to Agnès Callamard, Secretary General of Amnesty International, it is not because the Ukrainians act from a defensive point of view and try to thwart the Russian war in Ukraine that they can ignore international law.
“We have documented a tendency for Ukrainian forces to endanger civilians and violate the laws of war when operating in populated areas,” Callamard said in a statement. “Being in a defensive position does not exempt the Ukrainian army from respecting international humanitarian law.
But, Amnesty argues, the Ukrainian authorities also have a responsibility to protect civilians. Callamard urged Ukrainian officials to intervene and ensure civilians are evacuated from areas where the military plans to operate.
“Authorities should immediately locate their forces away from populated areas or evacuate civilians from places where the army is operating,” he added. Squid said.
Ukrainian authorities ordered civilians to clear out the Donetsk region. Zelensky told civilians living in Ukrainian-controlled Donetsk that it would be safer to leave.
“The more people leave the Donetsk region now, the less the Russian military will have time to kill,” Zelensky said.
In some cases, Ukrainian authorities have urged civilians to evacuate in anticipation of Ukrainian forces leading a counter-offensive against Russian fighters.
Amnesty has acknowledged that Russian forces do not just attack Ukrainian bases in populated areas, and in some cases when the Russians strike civilians in Ukraine it is not because the Russians are attacking Ukrainian bases, but rather because Russia targets populated civilian areas, with no clear military purpose.
“In some areas of the city of Kharkiv, the organization did not find evidence of Ukrainian forces located in civilian areas illegally targeted by the Russian military,” Amnesty said.
Amnesty’s report comes as investigators investigate alleged Russian war crimes.
Since the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February until the end of July, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has recorded 12,584 civilian casualties in Ukraine, including 5,327 killed. OHCHR suspects the numbers could be higher.
The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court announced in March that the ICC would investigate allegations of war crimes, crimes against humanity or genocide in Ukraine, and investigators have been collecting evidence ever since. Ukraine’s Prosecutor General’s Office said that as of Thursday, Russian soldiers had committed approximately 26,465 war crimes against Ukraine and its people. Over 40 countriesincluding the United States, Britain and European Union countries, pledged to support investigative work into alleged war crimes committed by Russian forces in Ukraine.
The ICC may be able to present its first war crimes trial against Russians this winter, according to a Bloomberg report. And Ukraine’s Attorney General Andrii Kostin said earlier this week that Ukraine was considering handing over of several cars to the ICC.