The international human rights organization Amnesty International published a report in which it accused the Ukrainian army of violating humanitarian law and creating danger for civilians by placing military bases in residential areas, schools and hospitals.
Human rights activists believe that the armed forces endanger civilians by using weapons in populated areas, and bases in residential areas or schools make them legitimate targets for the Russians.
Amnesty International representatives conducted surveillance from April to July in Kharkiv, Mykolaiv, Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts. They studied the places that were shelled by Russia, and also interviewed eyewitnesses and relatives of the dead. Human rights activists said that Ukrainian troops sometimes opened fire near schools or residential buildings, and were also in civilian objects in 19 cities and villages of these oblasts.
"We recorded a picture when Ukrainian troops put the civilian population at risk and violate the laws of war when they operate in populated areas. Being in a defensive position does not exempt the Ukrainian military from compliance with international humanitarian law," stated the Amnesty Internationalʼs Secretary General, Agniesz Callamar.
At the same time, human rights defenders note that the practice of the Ukrainian military, which places military facilities in populated areas, "in no way justifies Russiaʼs indiscriminate attacks." They are classified as war crimes. The report says that human rights defenders recorded Russian shelling of civilian objects where there were no military personnel nearby.
"The government of Ukraine should immediately ensure the placement of its forces away from populated areas or evacuate the civilian population from areas where the military operates," Callamar stated.
Reaction of Ukraine
The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, Dmytro Kuleba, expressed his indignation in an Instagram post. He considers the Amnesty International report unfair.
"I understand that in response to criticism, Amnesty will say: “So we criticize both sides of the conflict.” But this behavior of Amnesty is not about finding and conveying the truth to the world, it is about creating a false balance between the criminal and the victim," stated Kuleba, urging human rights activists to "stop creating a false reality" where "everyone is a little bit guilty."
Mykhailo Podolyak, the Adviser to the Head of the Presidentʼs Office, told Amnesty that the only ones who put Ukrainian civilians at risk are the Russian troops. He noted that Ukraine always tries to evacuate people from war zones as much as possible.
"Today, Russia is making every effort to discredit the Armed Forces of Ukraine in the eyes of Western societies and disrupt the supply of weapons, using the entire network of its agents of influence. It is a pity that such an organization as Amnesty International participates in this disinformation and propaganda campaign," stated Podolyak.