Amnesty says ‘fully stands by’ report on Ukraine criticised by Kyiv

Amnesty says ‘fully stands by’ report on Ukraine criticised by Kyiv

Amnesty International on Friday said it stands by its accusation that Ukraine is endangering civilians by creating army bases in residential areas to counter Russian forces, after a report from the rights group prompted a furious response from Kyiv.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky had lashed out Amnesty over the report published on Thursday, saying the rights group was drawing a false equivalence between Ukraine as victim of aggression and the Russian invaders.

Amnesty “fully stands by our research,” the organisation’s Secretary General Agnes Callamard told AFP in emailed comments.

“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.

Amnesty’s report said Ukrainian forces were violating international law and endangering civilians by establishing bases in residential areas, including in schools and hospitals.

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.

But Zelensky accused Amnesty of trying to shift “the responsibility from the aggressor to the victim”.

“If someone makes a report in which the victim and the aggressor are supposedly equal in some way… then this cannot be tolerated,” he said.

Callamard however expressed concern that the Ukraine government’s “reaction risks chilling legitimate and important discussion of these topics”.

She said that the Ukrainian government did not respond to Amnesty’s request for a response to its findings and also emphasised that the group had issued multiple reports “documenting war crimes committed by Russian forces in Ukraine.”

Britain’s ambassador to Ukraine Melinda Simmons also appeared to criticise Amnesty on Twitter, saying that “the only things endangering (Ukrainian) civilians are missiles and guns and marauding Russian troops. Full stop.”

Adding to the controversy, the head of Amnesty’s Ukraine office Oksana Pokalchuk, wrote in a statement on Facebook that Amnesty had ignored her team’s pleas not to publish the report.

Amnesty’s Ukraine office would not translate the report into Ukrainian or upload the material on its Ukrainian website, she added.

Callamard said that it was not appropriate at the current moment to comment on “inaccuracies” in Pokalchuk’s statement but emphasised that its report “underwent a full internal review process” where Amnesty Ukraine could raise any concerns.

Agence France-Presse (AFP) is a French state-owned international news agency based in Paris. It is the world's oldest news agency, having been founded in 1835 as Havas.

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