KYIV, Ukraine (UKTN) – The head of Amnesty International’s Ukraine branch has resigned, saying the human rights organization shot down its opposition to publishing a report alleging Ukrainian troops had exposed civilians to Russian attacks by entering populated areas. base.
In a statement posted to Facebook Friday night, Oksana Pokalchuk accused her former employer of ignoring Ukraine’s war realities and the concerns of local employees who had pushed for the report to be reworked.
The report, released Thursday, sparked angry accusations from top Ukrainian officials and criticism from Western diplomats, who accused the authors of making vague claims that seemed to equate the Ukrainian military’s defensive actions with the tactics of the invading Russians. .
“It’s painful to admit, but I and Amnesty International’s leadership are divided on values,” Pokalchuk wrote. “I believe that any work done for the good of society should take into account the local context and think about the consequences.”
Russia has repeatedly justified attacks on civilian areas by claiming that Ukrainian fighters had set up firing positions at the targeted locations.
Pokalchuk said her office had asked the organization’s leadership to give the Ukrainian Defense Ministry sufficient time to respond to the report’s findings and argued that failing to do so would further the Kremlin’s misinformation and propaganda efforts. .
“I am convinced that our investigations must be conducted thoroughly, taking into account the people whose lives often depend directly on the words and actions of international organizations,” she said.
In a press release accompanying the report’s publication, Amnesty International Secretary General Agnes Callamard said the organization had “documented a pattern of Ukrainian armed forces endangering civilians and violating the laws of war when operating in populated areas.
“The fact that they are in a defensive position does not absolve the Ukrainian military from respecting international humanitarian law,” she said on Thursday.
Russian state-backed media quoted the report as supporting Moscow’s claim that Russia only carried out attacks on military targets during the war. The Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman cited Amnesty International’s claims as evidence that Ukraine was using civilians as human shields.
Multiple Western scholars of international and military law took to social media to dismiss the human shield claim. They said the report contained poor wording that obscured legal differences and ignored the fighting conditions in Ukraine.
Marc Garlasco, the United Nations war crimes investigator, accused Amnesty International of “misunderstanding the law” and said Ukraine is taking steps to protect civilians by helping them relocate.
Ukrainian authorities at the national and regional levels have repeatedly urged residents of frontline areas to evacuate, although tens of thousands of people who have left their homes since the Russian invasion have returned after running out of support or feeling unwelcome.
Ukrainian leaders, including President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and the country’s foreign and defense ministers, scathingly condemned the report, which they say provided no context about Russia’s bombing of populated areas and documented attacks on civilians.
Callamard, Amnesty’s secretary general, posted a tweet on Friday defending the organization’s work and targeting its critics.
“Ukrainian and Russian mobs and social media trolls: they are all attacking Amnesty investigations today. This is called war propaganda, disinformation, disinformation. This will not affect our impartiality or change the facts,” she wrote.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba reacted angrily to Callamard, accusing her organization of “false neutrality” and playing into the Kremlin’s hands.
“Apparently the Amnesty Secretary-General is calling me a ‘mob’ and a ‘troll’, but this doesn’t stop me from saying that the report distorts reality, draws false moral equivalence between the aggressor and the victim, and the disinformation Russia’s efforts. This is false ‘neutrality’, not truth,” Kuleba wrote on Twitter.
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