- 05 Aug 22
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky angrily referred to the statement released by Amnesty International in a speech last night in Kyiv.
Amnesty International is facing a barrage of social media backlash and anger from Kyiv after stating that Ukrainian forces are violating international law and endangering civilians by establishing bases in residential areas, including in schools and hospitals.
Representative in Kyiv said the human rights group was drawing a "false equivalency" between the actions of Russia's invading forces and Ukrainian forces defending their homeland, the Kyiv Independent reported.
Amnesty had tried to "amnesty the terrorist state and shift the responsibility from the aggressor to the victim", Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky remarked yesterday evening in his daily address.
2/4 President @ZelenskyyUa accused @amnesty of an “attempt to grant amnesty to the terrorist state and to shift blame from the aggressor to the victim of aggression. Some 🇺🇦 journalists have also described it as a bid to strike a "balance between the Jews and Hitler".
— KyivPost (@KyivPost) August 5, 2022
"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, if some data about the victim is analysed, and the aggressor's actions at the same time is ignored, then this cannot be tolerated," he continued.
Amnesty wrote in its report that Ukraine's counter-tactics "in no way justify Russia's indiscriminate attacks", and some Russian "war crimes" - including in the city of Kharkiv - were not linked.
The NGO cited incidents when Ukrainian forces appeared to have exposed 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."
Since Russia began its war against Ukraine we have been exposing violations of human rights & intl humanitarian law. From the devastation of Izium to the siege of Mariupol, shelling in Kyiv to displaced people in Lviv, Russia’s war is an act of aggression.https://t.co/1dnjnk0qyE
— Amnesty International (@amnesty) August 4, 2022
Residential areas where Ukrainian soldiers based themselves were miles away from frontlines, and "viable alternatives" were available that would not endanger civilians, the report said.
Soldiers failed to tell civilians to evacuate the areas, despite launching strikes on Russian forces that exposed them to retaliatory fire, Amnesty reported.
Amnesty researchers witnessed Ukrainian forces using hospitals as "de facto military bases" in five locations, and in 22 schools situated in civilian neighbourhoods.
Ukraine's Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba branded the allegations as "unfair".
"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 destroys hundreds and thousands of civilians, cities, territories, and a country that is desperately defending itself," he said.
Defence Minister Oleksiy Reznikov called the report a "perversion" as he said it questioned the right of Ukrainians to defend their country.
Top presidential aide Mykhailo Podolyak insisted Ukraine's armed forces take all measures to move civilians to safer areas and suggested Amnesty was complicit in spreading Kremlin disinformation.
"The only thing that poses a threat to Ukrainians is (Russian) army of executioners and rapists coming to (Ukraine) to commit genocide," he tweeted.
Mykhailo Podolyak, adviser to the President's Office, accused Amnesty International of participating in the Russian disinformation and propaganda campaign to discredit Ukraine's military. Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba also said he was outraged by the "unfair" report.
— The Kyiv Independent (@KyivIndependent) August 4, 2022
Any criticism of Ukraine's military tactics appears to draw massive backlash, even with Sabina Higgins' letter last week on calling for peace negotiations and an end to violence.