Amnesty International has said that the Ukrainian military is endangering the lives of civilians by establishing themselves in residential areas, in a report that representatives of the Ukrainian government dismissed as blaming it for Russia’s invasion.
Researchers from the human rights group found that the Ukrainian military was using some schools and hospitals as bases, firing near homes and sometimes living in residential flats. The report concluded that this would mean in some cases the Russian military would respond to an attack or target residential areas – putting civilians at risk and causing damage to civilian infrastructure.
It also criticized the Ukrainian military for not evacuating civilians who could be caught in the crossfire.
“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 Amnesty International Secretary General Agnes Callamard.
However, Oksana Poklchuk, the head of Amnesty Ukraine’s office, wrote on Facebook that her operation disagrees with the report. He said he was struck out of the pre-publication process when he complained that the report was based on incomplete evidence compiled by foreign collaborators.
“The arguments of our team about the inadmissibility and incompleteness of such material were not taken into account,” Poklchuk wrote. “Representatives of the Ukrainian Office did everything they could to prevent this material from being published.”
Ukraine’s Deputy Defense Minister Hannah Mallier accused Amnesty of “distorting the real picture” and failing to understand the situation on the ground. He said Ukrainian troops have been deployed to cities and populated areas to protect against Russian attacks.
“There is no chronology of events [in the report], The Russian Federation is committing a crime here. Ukraine is defending its land. Moscow ignores all the rules of war. And unlike Ukraine, it doesn’t allow that in international organizations like Amnesty,” Malier said.
Speaking at a briefing in Kyiv, Malyar insisted that the Ukrainian armed forces put civilians on buses to evacuate them from the front lines. Some refused to go despite repeated requests and offers for transport to safer areas. Ukraine provided access to external agencies, including the International Criminal Court, and its own investigation into the abuses committed by its troops, she said.
Ukraine’s Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov said, “Any attempt to question the right of Ukrainians to oppose genocide, to defend their families and homes … A Russian army of executioners and rapists coming to Ukraine to commit genocide.” Is”.
Amnesty researchers examined Russian attacks in Kharkiv, Donbass and Mykolaiv regions of Ukraine between April and July. They found 19 villages and towns from where the Ukrainian army had either launched attacks or were positioning themselves. In these three areas, Amnesty found five locations where hospitals were used as “real” grounds and out of 29 schools visited by Amnesty, they concluded that 22 were used as bases. .
Schools were closed on the first day of the invasion and where possible, students were learning remotely.
The report stated that most of the civilian infrastructure rebuilt by the Ukrainian military was located kilometers away from the frontline and argued that alternative locations were available.
Malyar argued at the briefing that Ukrainian anti-aircraft systems needed to be based in towns to protect civilian infrastructure and that if the Ukrainian military were based only outside urban settlements “the Russian armed forces would simply sweep unopposed”.
Ukrainian social media users also responded with examples of when Russian forces struck buildings being used by civilians, as well as scores of crimes committed against Ukrainian civilians under Russian occupation.
Guardian journalists have seen at least seven instances in three regions of Ukraine where schools and nurseries in residential areas were used as bases by the Ukrainian military. Of the five schools and nurseries the Guardian visited, five were bombed. In each instance, several nearby buildings were damaged in the attack.
In one instance, in the Donetsk region, at least three people died when an explosion wave destroyed a base that hit a neighboring residential building.
At a school being used as a base by Ukrainian forces in central Ukraine, the commander said schools and kindergartens across Ukraine were being bombed because they were being used as bases. The commander said the schools provided the necessary facilities: showers, multiple toilets, large kitchens, dining areas, basements and rooms. He said the invasion meant the army had to quickly adjust to the hordes of new recruits.
Steven Haines, professor of public international law at the University of Greenwich in London, who drafted illegally binding guidelines on military use of schools and universities during conflicts – which have been supported by 100 states, including Ukraine – said Ukraine His actions had not broken him.
“The use of schools – even if they are not being used for their primary purpose – is not necessarily illegal. Quite frankly, the situation in Ukraine is considered exceptional in this regard… so the Ukrainian military must necessarily It is not violating the guidelines from the government,” he said.
Guardian journalists have also seen three examples of vacant schools that have been renovated for civilian use since the war, such as a school in the Kharkiv region now being used as a humanitarian aid center and a school in Kyiv that has been destroyed by the war. Providing housing to displaced people.
Amnesty acknowledged that international humanitarian law does not prohibit parties from establishing themselves in schools that are not in session, but the report emphasized that “militaries have an obligation to refrain from using such schools.” Avoid those that are full of houses or apartment buildings … military necessity”.
Haines agreed with Amnesty’s assessment. He said it was the responsibility of military commanders on the ground to avoid collateral damage and try to choose buildings that, if attacked as legitimate military targets, would be killed without endangering the lives of nearby civilians. .
In an ideal scenario, populated areas would not be part of the war, but the nature of the invasion meant that city warfare in Ukraine had become inevitable, Haynes said.