Amnesty International on Thursday said that Ukraine is endangering civilians in its war-fighting tactics by establishing bases and launching attacks from residential areas, including schools and hospitals.
“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 Agnès Callamard, Amnesty’s secretary-general. “Being in a defensive position does not exempt the Ukrainian military from respecting international humanitarian law.”
Amnesty said that most residential areas where Ukrainian soldiers located themselves were “kilometers” away from the front lines and that there were “viable alternatives” that would not endanger civilians.
The NGO said it found Ukrainian forces using hospitals as de facto military bases in five locations. In 22 out of 29 schools that Amnesty visited, their researchers “either found soldiers using the premises or found evidence of current or prior military activity.”
Amnesty said that as a result of Ukraine’s tactics, Russian strikes in populated areas killed civilians. However, the NGO said that not every Russian attack followed this pattern and that where they accused Moscow of war crimes in Kharkiv, they did not find Ukraine using civilian areas as bases. Amnesty also said Ukraine’s tactics do not excuse Russia’s “indiscriminate attacks.”
Ukraine reacted angrily to Amnesty’s report, with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba saying he was “outraged.” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky accused the NGO of “helping the terrorists” by publishing the report.
Callamard called on Ukraine to ensure that the areas it uses as bases are away from populated areas. “Militaries should never use hospitals to engage in warfare, and should only use schools or civilian homes as a last resort when there are no viable alternatives,” she said.