In an e-mail sent to Reuters on Sunday, Amnesty said that it “deeply regrets the distress and anger that our press release on the Ukrainian military’s fighting tactics has caused,” as cited by Reuters.
The rights group went on to explain that its “sole objective” in publishing the analysis was to ensure that “civilians are protected.” It also made it clear that it “fully stand[s] by our findings.”
In its email, Amnesty insisted that its observers had sighted Ukrainian forces in the vicinity of residential areas in at least 19 towns and villages across the country. According to the organization, by positioning its forces in such a manner, the Ukrainian military endangered the civilian populations there by subjecting them to the danger of incoming Russian fire.
Soon after the findings were published, Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky accused Amnesty of trying to shift the responsibility away from Russian troops. Addressing these criticisms, the group stressed that its findings do not suggest that “Amnesty International holds Ukrainian forces responsible for violations committed by Russian forces, nor that the Ukrainian military is not taking adequate precautions elsewhere in the country.”
The rights group added: “Nothing we documented Ukrainian forces doing in any way justifies Russian violations.”
The report in question was published on Thursday. While lambasting Russian forces, the investigation also took aim at the Ukrainian military, claiming that it had displayed a troubling pattern of “putting civilians at risk and violating the laws of war” by operating from residential infrastructure, including schools.
Commenting on the group’s findings, Agnes Callamard, Amnesty International’s secretary general, emphasized that “being in a defensive position does not exempt the Ukrainian military from respecting international humanitarian law.”
Zelensky, however, lashed out at Amnesty, proclaiming that anyone who doubts that “Ukraine is a victim” is an “accomplice of Russia – a terrorist country – and a terrorist themselves and a participant in the killings.”
Ukrainian officials have also insisted that Kiev is doing its best to evacuate civilians out of harm’s way.
Russia, in turn, pointed out that it had repeatedly called out Ukrainian troops for using civilians as “human shields,” and Amnesty’s findings only serve to confirm that.