Amnesty regrets ‘distress’ caused by report on Ukrainian military but stands by findings

Amnesty International said it “deeply regrets the distress and anger” caused by a report the group published on the Ukrainian military’s fighting tactics, but that it “fully” stands by the findings, which concluded those tactics violated international humanitarian law.

Some background: The human rights watchdog published a press release last week accusing Ukrainian forces of putting civilians in harm’s way by setting up military bases in residential areas, including in schools and hospitals, and launching attacks from populated civilian areas.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky lashed out at the group’s report, arguing that it tried to “shift the responsibility” of civilian deaths in Ukraine away from Russia.

The report sparked the resignation of the head of Amnesty in Ukraine, Oksana Pokalchuk, who said she had tried to dissuade the organization from publishing the report as it appeared.

Following the backlash, Amnesty said in a statement to CNN Sunday: “While we fully stand by our findings, we regret the pain caused and wish to clarify a few crucial points.”

The watchdog reiterated that it had “documented how in all 19 of the towns and villages we visited, we found instances where Ukrainian forces had located themselves right next to where civilians were living, thereby potentially putting them at risk from incoming Russian fire.”

“We made this assessment based on the rules of international humanitarian law (IHL), which require all parties to a conflict to avoid locating, to the maximum extent feasible, military objectives within or near densely populated areas. The laws of war exist in part to protect civilians, and it is for this reason that Amnesty International urges governments to comply with them,” the watchdog group said.

“This does not mean that Amnesty International holds Ukrainian forces responsible for violations committed by Russian forces, nor that the Ukrainian military is not taking adequate precautions elsewhere in the country,” Amnesty said.

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