A global human rights watchdog accused Ukraine of employing battle tactics that deliberately endanger civilians, possible violations of international law, in a report published Thursday.
Ukraine’s army set up military bases and launched weapons from densely populated urban areas, effectively placing targets for the Russian army on the backs of civilians, the watchdog, Amnesty International, said. Such tactics could amount to a violation of international law, as they require the Russian army to incur larger collateral damage and destroy civilian infrastructure in order to strike strategic Ukrainian targets.
“We have documented a pattern of Ukrainian forces putting civilians at risk and violating the laws of war when they operate in populated areas,” said Agnès Callamard, Amnesty International’s secretary general. “Being in a defensive position does not exempt the Ukrainian military from respecting international humanitarian law.”
Russia has also violated internationally recognized humanitarian law, targeting civilians even in circumstances where no viable Ukrainian military targets were present, the report said.
The investigation, conducted between April and July, involved inspections, interviews of survivors and battlefield participants and remote-sensing and weapons analyses, Amnesty said. Researchers identified 19 cities where Ukrainian forces based in hospitals, schools and other civilian infrastructure near the front lines, even when viable alternatives were available.
“Amnesty International is not aware that the Ukrainian military who located themselves in civilian structures in residential areas asked or assisted civilians to evacuate nearby buildings – a failure to take all feasible precautions to protect civilians,” the report said.
Shameful victim-blaming. Russia invaded Ukraine and is committing unspeakable war crimes there. Please do not amplify Russian lies
— Paul Massaro (@apmassaro3) August 4, 2022
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy denounced the report in a statement Thursday, saying that “cynical and calculating” Russian forces singled out residential buildings and obvious noncombatant gatherings.
“They knew where they were hitting, and they obviously wanted people to get hurt,” Zelenskyy added.
He said he would not tolerate organizations accusing Ukraine of the same behavior Russia, the aggressor, displays while ignoring the egregious nature of Russia’s warfighting tactics.
“Anyone who amnesties Russia and who artificially creates such an informational context that some attacks by terrorists are supposedly justified or supposedly understandable, cannot but realize that it helps the terrorists,” Zelenskyy said. “And if you provide manipulative reports, then you share the responsibility for the death of people with them.”
Ukraine’s Parliament approved in February a law allowing civilians to carry arms and defend themselves from the imminent Russian onslaught. Frequent instances of civilians participating in the fighting, including throwing molotov cocktails at Russian infantry and repurposing farming equipment to confiscate Russian armor, have blurred the lines between military and civilian targets.
The U.S. assessed in March that Russia had committed war crimes in the process of conducting its “unprovoked war of choice” against Ukraine, according to the State Department.
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