Government officials in Kyiv dismissed a report by Amnesty International critical of Ukraine’s military as “fake” and “propaganda” after the human rights organization argued the country’s wartime tactics endanger civilians and violate international law.
The report published Thursday alleges Ukraine’s military is violating international humanitarian law by turning civilian facilities into military targets, for example establishing bases and operating weapons systems in populated residential areas, including in schools and hospitals. When Russia subsequently strikes those targets, it ends up killing civilians and destroying civilian infrastructure, according to the watchdog group.
The report was based on the observations of Amnesty International researchers, who spent several weeks between April and July investigating Russian strikes in the southern Kharkiv and Mykolaiv regions as well as in the Donbas.
Specifically, the researchers said they witnessed Ukrainian forces using hospitals as “de facto military bases” in five locations.
“Being in a defensive position does not exempt the Ukrainian military from respecting international humanitarian law,” said Amnesty International’s Secretary-General Agnès Callamard.
The report also said that the Ukrainian military’s practice of locating military operations within populated areas does not in any way justify indiscriminate Russian attacks.
Dmytro Kuleba, Ukraine’s foreign minister, said in a video statement that he was “outraged” by the report by the London-based watchdog, and considered its assessment “unfair.”
“This behavior of Amnesty International is not about finding and bringing the truth to the world, but about creating a false balance between the criminal and his victim,” Kuleba said.
He added that Amnesty International must stop creating “a fake reality” in which every side of the war “is a little guilty of something.”
Kuleba argued the watchdog should be involved in delivering “the systemic and large-scale truth” about Russia, “at least in the name” of civilian victims who were killed by Russian shelling at a public transport stop in the eastern town of Toretsk on Thursday morning.
According to local authorities, eight people were killed, and four were wounded, including three children, due to Russia’s shelling of the Kyiv-controlled town in the Donetsk region.
Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov said any attempts to put unprovoked Russian aggression against Ukraine on par with Kyiv’s self-defense efforts, “as is done in the Amnesty International material, is evidence of a loss of adequacy and a way to destroy its authority.”
“We will not allow [anyone] to slander our army, our defenders,” Reznikov said.
Mykhailo Podoliak, an adviser to the office of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, argued Moscow has been trying to discredit the Ukrainian Armed Forces in the eyes of Western societies and disrupt supplies of Western weapons to Kyiv, using “the entire network of influence agents.”
“It is a shame that the organization like Amnesty is participating in this disinformation and propaganda campaign,” he tweeted.