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Amnesty International’s claims of Ukrainian war crimes wrong, says group’s head of operation in the country

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A firefighter works at a residential house destroyed by a Russian military strike in Kharkiv region. Photo: Reuters

A firefighter works at a residential house destroyed by a Russian military strike in Kharkiv region. Photo: Reuters

Secretary general of Amnesty International, Agnes Callamard. Photo: Reuters/Ronen Zvulun

Secretary general of Amnesty International, Agnes Callamard. Photo: Reuters/Ronen Zvulun

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A firefighter works at a residential house destroyed by a Russian military strike in Kharkiv region. Photo: Reuters

The head of Amnesty’s Ukrainian operation has publicly discredited its international headquarters’ report into alleged war crimes by Kyiv’s armed forces.

Oksana Pokalchuk accused the campaign group of publishing “inadmissible and incomplete” evidence, and said her colleagues in the war-torn country had been shut out of the investigation.

In its report, published on Thursday, Amnesty International claimed Ukraine had endangered civilians by setting up military bases in residential areas, including hospitals and schools, in the Kharkiv, Donbas and Mykolaiv regions.

Its publication prompted anger in Kyiv, including from President Volodymyr Zelensky, with the Ukrainian government accusing the human rights organisation of siding with Russia.

In a social media post, Ms Pokalchuk, head of Amnesty Ukraine, said: “The Ukrainian office was not involved in the preparation or writing of the text of the publication.

"Our team’s arguments about the inadmissibility and incompleteness of such material were not taken into account.”

While looking into Russian attacks between April and July, Amnesty claimed it found evidence of Ukrainian forces operating out of civilian buildings in at least 19 towns and villages.

The organisation said Ukraine had committed “a clear violation of international humanitarian law” by operating military bases out of at least five hospitals.

It also claimed 22 out of 29 schools visited in the Donbas and Mykolaiv regions had been turned into military bases.

Amnesty said subsequent Russian strikes on the locations had resulted in multiple deaths and injuries. The report was criticised by some military analysts.

Jack Watling, a senior research fellow at the Royal United Services Institute, wrote on Twitter that the report “demonstrates a weak understanding of the laws of armed conflict”.

Agnes Callamard, Amnesty International’s secretary general, said: “The findings... were based on evidence gathered during extensive investigations which were subject to the same rigorous standards and due diligence processes as all of Amnesty International’s work.” (© Telegraph Media Group Ltd)

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Telegraph Media Group Limited [2022]


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