Ukraine forces endangering civilians, says Amnesty Int’l

AFP

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Police experts stand by the bodies of civilians who were killed in a Russian missile strike in Saltivka, a northern district of the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv, on July 20, 2022.
SERGEY BOBOK / AFPPolice experts stand by the bodies of civilians who were killed in a Russian missile strike in Saltivka, a northern district of the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv, on July 20, 2022.

'Being in a defensive position does not exempt the Ukrainian military from respecting international... law'

Ukrainian forces are violating international law and endangering civilians by establishing bases in residential areas, including in schools and hospitals, Amnesty International said Thursday.

The defenders' tactics "in no way justify Russia's indiscriminate attacks,” the rights group said in a new report, and some Russian "war crimes" including in the city of Kharkiv were not linked to the tactics.

But Amnesty listed incidents when Ukrainian forces appeared to expose civilians to danger in 19 towns and villages in the Kharkiv, Donbas, and Mykolaiv regions.

"We have documented a pattern of Ukrainian forces putting civilians at risk and violating the laws of war when they operate in populated areas," Amnesty Secretary-General Agnes Callamard said.  

"Being in a defensive position does not exempt the Ukrainian military from respecting international humanitarian law." 

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Residential areas where Ukrainian soldiers based themselves were miles away from frontlines, and "viable alternatives" were available, the report said, adding that soldiers failed to tell civilians to evacuate the areas, despite launching strikes on Russian forces that exposed them to retaliatory fire.

"We have no say in what the military does, but we pay the price," the report quoted one resident as saying.

Ukraine's government pushed back hard at the report, calling it “unfair” and in line with Kremlin propagandists. 

The report "is not about finding and reporting the truth to the world, it is about creating a false equivalence – between the offender and the victim, between the country that destroys hundreds and thousands of civilians, cities, territories, and a country that is desperately defending itself," Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba.

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