Zelensky fury as Amnesty accuses UKRAINE of endangering civilians’ | Daily Mail

by UKCHP_Admin

Amnesty International today defended its report accusing Ukraine of endangering the lives of its own civilians in the country’s defence against Russia’s on-going invasion, saying it ‘calls out human rights violations no matter who is responsible’.

In a coup for Vladimir Putin’s propaganda machine, Amnesty on Thursday listed incidents in 19 cities and towns in which it claimed Ukrainian forces appeared to have put civilians in harm’s way by establishing bases in residential areas.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky furiously lashed out at the group over the report, accusing it of victim blaming. He said it had sought to offer ‘amnesty (to) the terrorist state and shift the responsibility from the aggressor to the victim’.

In response to widespread criticism, Amnesty on Friday said it fully stood by its accusations. In a statement given to MailOnline, an amnesty spokesman said ‘we will never ignore human rights violations’.

And later on Friday, the organisation’s Secretary General Agnes Callamard told AFP news agency that Amnesty ‘fully stands by our research’.

‘The findings… were based on evidence gathered during extensive investigations which were subject to the same rigorous standards and due diligence processes as all of Amnesty International’s work,’ she added.

In his Thursday evening address, Zelensky said: ‘There is no condition, even hypothetically, under which any Russian strike on Ukraine becomes justified. Aggression against our state is unprovoked, invasive and terrorist.

‘If someone makes a report in which the victim and the aggressor are supposedly equal in some way… then this cannot be tolerated.’

Ukraine’s foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba also slammed the human rights organisation over the report.

‘This behaviour of Amnesty International 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 destroyed hundreds and thousands of civilians, cities, territories and a country and it defending itself,’ he wrote on Facebook.

Others, such as Ukrainian MP Inna Sovsun, pointed out the reason Ukrainian forces are inside cities in the country is because those cities are being attacked by Russia.

‘Yes, Ukrainian military is in populated areas. Because Russia is attacking populated areas,’ she wrote on Twitter. ‘Not fields, not forests, but cities. Therefore, the Ukrainian army must be in villages and cities to protect people there.’

Ukraine’s Ministry of Defence also published a statement saying that its defence systems were in cities to defend against Russian attacks, and that when reports of Ukrainian soldiers committing war crimes had surfaced – such as in 2014 – it had referred itself to  the International Criminal Court to allow it to investigate.

This, it said, is something Russia has not done. 

The ministry also noted that Ukraine regularly evacuates its civilians from cities that come under attack, but that not all citizens want to leave.

Russia, meanwhile, saw the Amnesty report as a boon for its propaganda machine, with the Russian Embassy in the UK happily sharing it on its Twitter feed.

‘Amnesty confirms Ukraine tactics violate international humanitarian law & endanger civilians,’ the embassy wrote. ‘[Ukraine] forces set up bases in residential areas, incl schools & hospitals; launch attacks from populated civilian areas – exactly what Russia has been saying all along.’

The report was also covered on Russian state TV, with Putin’s favourite channel Russia-1 saying Amnesty had ‘accused Ukraine of violating the laws of war’.

‘Even the international crooks and scoundrels of the so-called human rights organisation Amnesty International have accused Ukraine of violating the laws of war by placing military equipment in educational and medical facilities, thus endangering civilians,’ one of the channel’s presenters Yevgeny Popov said.

‘If even they are saying that the rules of warfare have been violated then Ukrainians should reflect on it. Western analysts have started to suspect that hospitals and schools in Ukraine are not being used for their intended purpose,’ he added.

After a four-month investigation, Amnesty said it had found that the Ukrainian military had established bases in schools and hospitals, and launched attacks from populated areas, asserting that the tactics violated international humanitarian law.

The group noted, however, that the tactics ‘in no way justify Russia’s indiscriminate attacks’, which have battered civilian populations.

‘We have documented a pattern of Ukrainian forces putting civilians at risk and violating the laws of war when they operate in populated areas,’ said Agnès Callamard, Amnesty International’s Secretary General in the report.

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

The group went on to say that not ever Russian attack ‘followed this pattern’.

The report said: ‘In certain other locations in which Amnesty International concluded that Russia had committed war crimes, including in some areas of the city of Kharkiv, the organization did not find evidence of Ukrainian forces located in the civilian areas unlawfully targeted by the Russian military.’

At the end of the report, Callamard – a French human rights lawyer – also called on Ukraine to move ‘its forces away from populated areas, or should evacuate civilians from areas where the military is operating.

‘Militaries should never use hospitals to engage in warfare, and should only use schools or civilian homes as a last resort when there are no viable alternatives.’

In a statement following the report’s release, Oksana Pokalchuck – head of Amnesty International’s Ukraine team – said concerns were raised by her branch about the report, but it was published by the English-Language branch anyway.

‘The Ukrainian office was not involved in the preparation or writing of the text of the publication,’ she wrote on Facebook.

‘And, unfortunately, already at the initial stage of developing this report, we reached a dead end, where the arguments of our team regarding the inadmissibility and incompleteness of such material were not taken into account.

‘For their part, representatives of the Ukrainian office did everything they could to prevent this material from being made public. When our repeated objections were answered with a firm no, we also did everything we could to minimize the distribution of the material.’

She continued: ‘We asked the authors to send us all versions of the material in advance (unfortunately, this did not happen), we convinced them to ask for an official comment from the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine, but at the same time, unfortunately, they did not give us enough time to receive an answer and published it research without their comment. 

‘We also categorically refused to publish this press release on our website or translate it into Ukrainian, due to its, in our opinion, one-sidedness. We are very sorry that even after all possible arguments ‘against’ we were still not heard.’

In response to the criticism, an Amnesty International spokesperson told MailOnline: ‘Our findings on Ukrainian violations come in the context of our continued condemnation of Russia’s invasion.

‘We continue to call for Russian forces to be held accountable for serious violations of international humanitarian law and war crimes. 

‘We will never ignore human rights violations. We will continue to call them out whenever and wherever they occur, and no matter who is responsible for them.’

[Read more: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-11083903/Zelensky-fury-Amnesty-International-accuses-UKRAINE-endangering-civilians-lives.html]

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