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A child climbs on top of a piece of destroyed Russian military equipment displayed at St. Michael's Square in Kyiv in June. Picture: BLOOMBERG/ANDREW KRAVCHENKO
A child climbs on top of a piece of destroyed Russian military equipment displayed at St. Michael's Square in Kyiv in June. Picture: BLOOMBERG/ANDREW KRAVCHENKO

Ukraine condemned a report from Amnesty International that accused Kyiv’s forces of endangering civilians by operating in residential areas as they fight to repel Russia’s invasion.

Ukraine’s military has taken some positions and operated weapons in areas inhabited by civilians, including hospitals and schools, Amnesty said in a statement, citing witness interviews. Such tactics turn civilians into targets of Russian strikes, even if it doesn’t justify indiscriminate Russian attacks, Amnesty said.

Ukrainian officials said the report undermined Amnesty’s credibility, with defence minister Oleksiy Reznikov saying it was indirectly equating Russian aggression with Ukraine’s efforts to defend itself. Foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba said the report distorted reality. 

The report “unfortunately tries to amnesty the terrorist state and shift the responsibility from the aggressor to the victim,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said late on Thursday in a statement. 

Ukraine and its Western allies have accused Russian President Vladimir Putin’s troops of committing war crimes including rapes and executions in territories that they occupy, as well as intentionally targeting schools, hospitals and other civilian sites with attacks.

Tens of thousands of Ukrainians have been killed, with many more forcibly deported to Russia. Millions of people have also been displaced within Ukraine, and millions more have fled to the safety of the EU.

“Being in a defensive position does not exempt the Ukrainian military from respecting international humanitarian law,” Amnesty International secretary-general Agnes Callamard said in the report.

The US and UK ambassadors to Ukraine underscored that Russia was at fault for launching the war and endangering civilians.

Russia’s embassy in Britain argued that the report validated its findings. Russia has repeatedly said that attacks that have killed civilians — including against sites such as theatres and schools marked with signs saying “CHILDREN” — are aimed at legitimate military targets, which Ukraine rejects.

It’s not the first time Amnesty has drawn criticism in the region. Last year it revoked “prisoner of conscience” status of the jailed Russian government critic Alexei Navalny due to his more than a decade-old statements which the organisations saw as “discriminatory.” Facing a backlash from Navalny supporters, the organisation later backtracked.

More stories like this are available on bloomberg.com

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