The head of Amnesty International’s Ukraine office has resigned, accusing the rights organization of mimicking Kremlin propaganda in a controversial report criticizing the war-torn country’s military response to the Russian invasion.
Amnesty sparked outrage in Ukraine when it released a report Thursday accusing the military of endangering civilians by establishing bases in schools and hospitals and launching counter-attacks from densely populated areas.
“If you don’t live in a country that has been invaded by occupiers tearing it to pieces, you probably don’t understand what it’s like to condemn an army of defenders,” Amnesty’s Oksana Pokalchuk said on social media, announcing her resignation Friday. . .
“And there are no words in any language that can convey this to someone who has not experienced this pain.”
Pokalchuk said she had tried to warn Amnesty’s senior leadership that the report was one-sided and did not take due account of the Ukrainian position, but was ignored.
Amnesty says it contacted defense officials in Kiev on July 29 with its findings, but had not received a response at the time of publication – but Pokalchuk argued this was not nearly enough.
“As a result, the organization inadvertently released a statement that sounded like support for Russian narratives. In an effort to protect civilians, this investigation instead became a tool of Russian propaganda.”
Amnesty listed incidents where Ukrainian troops appeared to have exposed civilians to danger in 19 towns and villages in the Kharkov, Donbas and Mykolaiv regions.
“We have documented a pattern of Ukrainian troops endangering civilians and violating the laws of war when operating in populated areas,” said Amnesty Secretary-General Agnes Callamard.
“The fact that he is in a defensive position does not absolve the Ukrainian military from respecting international humanitarian law.”
The Ukrainian government pushed back hard, with Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba calling the allegations “unfair” and Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov calling the report a “perversion”.
President Volodymyr Zelensky said the rights group had tried “to grant amnesty to the terrorist state and shift responsibility from the aggressor to the victim.”
“If someone makes a report in which the victim and the aggressor are somehow equal, if some data about the victim is analyzed and at the same time the actions of the aggressor are ignored, then this cannot be tolerated,” he said. .
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