Ukrainian soldiers lead to the front line, eastern Ukraine, on July 31, 2022.

The war Come in Russia Y Ukraine It has brought thousands of deaths, among the lives lost that are counted are those of soldiers and civilians. This last group is the focus of concern for organizations such as International Amnestywhich published a report on Thursday stating that the kyiv army endangers the lives of civilians by establishing military installations in “civilian-inhabited areas, including in schools and hospitals”.

In a report—published on Thursday, August 4, after a four-month investigation— International Amnesty stated that the army ukrainian endangered civilians by setting up military bases in residential areas and launching attacks from populated places to stop the Russian invasion.

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According to the organization, these practices violate international humanitarian law, as it turns civilian objects into military targets. As is known, the attacks of the Russian army in populated areas have caused death and destroyed infrastructure.

Ukrainian soldiers lead to the front line, eastern Ukraine, on July 31, 2022. / BULENT KILIC

LOOK: Amnesty International says Ukraine’s combat tactics endanger civilians

Ukrainian forces put the civilian population at risk by establishing bases and operating weapons systems in civilian-inhabited areas, including schools and hospitals, to repel the Russian invasion that began in February”, states the Amnesty International report.

The general secretary of International AmnestyAgnes Callamard, in a report made by the organization itself that the Ukrainian army “violate the laws of war when operating in populated areas”, since it puts the lives of the nearby civilian population at risk.

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investigation details

For this report, an Amnesty International team spent several weeks – between April and July – witnessing Russian attacks in the regions of Kharkiv, the donbas Y Mykolayiv. To do this, they made a physical inspection of the areas that suffered the attacks, interviewed survivors, witnesses and relatives of victims. With this, they were able to do work of “remote sensing and weapon analysis”, as reported.

It was during these studies that the team in charge found indications that Ukrainian forces were launching attacks from inside civilian-inhabited areas and that they had established their bases in civilian buildings in at least 19 cities. To corroborate some of these incidents, the Evidence Lab analyzed satellite images.

A Ukrainian man killed in Bakhmut's main square is carried by soldiers and emergency services after a shelling in Bakhmut, eastern Ukraine, on July 31, 2022.
A Ukrainian man killed in Bakhmut’s main square is carried by soldiers and emergency services after a shelling in Bakhmut, eastern Ukraine, on July 31, 2022. / BULENT KILIC

Ukrainian combat tactics endangering civilians

As confirmed International Amnesty, it was found that many of the residential areas were located kilometers from the front lines. In addition, it was found that there were viable alternatives that would not compromise the safety of the civilian population, such as the use of military bases or densely forested areas in the vicinity of the conflict area.

On the other hand, Amnesty International states that it is not aware of any efforts by the Ukrainian military to evacuate or assist in the evacuation of civilians living in the residential areas where they settled.

Part of the organization’s complaint is that the Ukrainian armed forces did not take “all possible precautions to protect the civilian population”. Some of these bad practices are:

Attacks launched from areas inhabited by civilians

Witnesses and survivors of Russian attacks in the Donbas, Kharkov and Mykolaiv regions stated that the Ukrainian army was carrying out operations near their homes. With them they exposed the areas to attacks and reprisals by Russian forces. Amnesty International’s own team confirms the facts, as they witnessed this practice.

The military were in a house next to ours and my son often brought food to the soldiers. I begged him several times to stay away because he feared for his safety. That afternoon, when the attack happened, my son was in the patio of our house and I was in the house. He died on the spot. His body was torn to shreds. Our house was partially destroyed”, told Amnesty International the mother of a 50-year-old man who died on June 10 in a town south of Mykolayivby a rocket attack.

I do not understand why our army shoots from the cities and not from the countryside”, asks Mykola, who lives in a block of flats in a neighborhood of Lisichansk (Dombas), an area that was the target of several Russian attacks.

On May 6, a town in Donbás was the victim of a Russian attack with cluster munitions —the use of which is prohibited—, it was an indiscriminate attack. The target was a neighborhood composed mostly of one or two-story houses, in this place the Ukrainian forces handled artillery weapons.

Shrapnel flew through the gates. I was inside. Ukrainian artillery was near my field […] The soldiers were behind the field, behind the house […] I saw them leaving and entering […] since the war started […] My mother is […] paralytic, that’s why I couldn’t run away”, Anna, a resident of the affected area, told Amnesty International.

We have no say in what the military does, but we pay the price”, a person who saw his house hit by a Russian missile told Amnesty International. Many of these people are unable to evacuate because they have close relatives with health problems or other circumstances.

It should be remembered that international humanitarian law requires that all parties involved in a war avoid locating military objectives in or near densely populated areas. And that the obligation to protect civilians in the surrounding areas includes evacuation and information on what may affect them.

A man looks on, near a building destroyed by a Russian rocket, in Kramatorsk, amid Russia's invasion of Ukraine, on July 29, 2022.
A man looks on, near a building destroyed by a Russian rocket, in Kramatorsk, amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, on July 29, 2022. / BULENT KILIC

Military bases in hospitals

The research team also witnessed how Ukrainian forces have used hospitals as military bases. At least they were able to document that this was done de facto in five places.

The NGO reported that in two cities the Ukrainian forces used hospitals to rest, pass the time and make their meals. While in another city, the troops fired from the vicinity of the hospital.

Amnesty International was able to document that on 28 April, two people working in a medical laboratory were injured following a Russian attack. These facilities were located in a suburb of Kharkiv and had been used by the Ukrainian forces as a base.

International humanitarian law prohibits the use of hospitals for military purposes.

Military bases in schools

In the Donbás and Mykolaiv area, the Ukrainian army has established a large part of its bases in schools. Since the beginning of the conflict, they have been temporarily closed to students. However, its premises are located near neighborhoods inhabited by civilians.

Amnesty International was able to find soldiers using school facilities or signs of military activity in 22 of the 29 schools the research team visited.

International humanitarian law does not prohibit parties to a conflict from establishing bases in schools while it is a vacation period. But it does require that the protection of civilians be prioritized, avoiding the use of facilities close to neighborhoods or homes, unless there is an imperative military need that demands it. In that case, there is an obligation to inform, warn and evacuate the civilian population. Amnesty International believes that this was not the case in the areas his team examined.

Criticism from Ukraine

Shortly after the publication of the report, the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskyaccused Amnesty International of excusing the “terrorist state” of Russia.

A few hours earlier, the Ukrainian Foreign Minister, Dmytro Kuleba, stated that he was “indignant“for the accusations”unfair” of the NGO.

In its report, Amnesty International stresses that Ukrainian tactics “do not justify indiscriminate Russian attacks at all” against the civilian population.

This photo taken and released by the Ukrainian Presidential Press Service on July 29, 2022 shows President Volodymyr Zelensky in front of journalists during a visit to the Black Sea port of Chornomorsk.  (Ukrainian Presidential Press Service)
This photo taken and released by the Ukrainian Presidential Press Service on July 29, 2022 shows President Volodymyr Zelensky in front of journalists during a visit to the Black Sea port of Chornomorsk. (Ukrainian Presidential Press Service) / AFP Agency

Answer of Amnesty International to Ukraine

For her part, the secretary general of Amnesty International —Agnes Callamard— told AFP by email that amnesty”fully maintains [sus] conclusions” in this report.

The conclusions (…) are based on evidence gathered at the end of extensive investigations that adhered to the same rigorous and diligent standards to which all Amnesty International’s work is subjected.L,” he added.

Callamard said the Ukrainian government did not respond to requests from his organization to respond to the investigation’s allegations.

On the other hand, he recalled that Amnesty International has released numerous reports “documenting war crimes committed by Russian forces in Ukraine”.

For her part, the head of Amnesty International in Ukraine, Oksana Pokalchuk, indicated in a statement on Facebook that Amnesty ignored her request that the report not be published, that it not be translated into Ukrainian.

Callamard stated that this is not the time to comment on the “inaccuracies” of the Pokalchuk statement, but insisted that the report was subjected to a “full internal review process”.

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