Conflicts & War

Ukraine says AI report plays into Russian propaganda

Lviv, Ukraine, Aug 5 (EFE).- Ukrainian authorities and experts have rejected an Amnesty International report that claimed Ukraine’s military tactics were violating international humanitarian law by turning “civilian objects into military targets”.

The head of AI’s Ukraine office, Oksana Pokalchuk, and her team have distanced themselves from the study published Thursday and insisted her team was not involved in the writing of the report, which was prepared by international researchers from AI’s global office.

Pokalchuk denounced “the bureaucracy, lack of understanding of the local context, inflexible work system and disregard of the opinion of the Ukrainian team and the position of the law defense community in Ukraine” in the creation of the report.

Ai stated that the Ukrainian army had established military positions and fired weapons from “densely populated” areas without warning residents or helping them to evacuate the area. In the cases described, this allegedly provoked the Russian army to respond, causing civilian casualties.

The publication of the report provoked a backlash in Ukraine as authorities and experts accused the human watchdog of blaming the victims and playing into Russian propaganda about invading the country.

Russia has never officially acknowledged that it has carried out strikes against civilian targets in Ukraine, such as the destruction of the Mariupol theater that sheltered some 1,000 people in March. Instead, Moscow blames the Ukrainian army for the attacks and has accused Kyiv of staging the incidents.

Ukraine’s minister of foreign affairs, Dmytro Kuleba, urged AI to stop creating “a false reality where we all are guilty of something” and said its report was “creating a false balance between the criminal and the victim”.

“It is Russia that destroys the civilian population of Ukraine by the thousands, destroys Ukrainian cities and territories, while the Armed Forces of Ukraine are trying to protect the country and the continent from the invader,” he said Thursday.

Various commentators, including Ukrainian lawyer Olesia Mykhailenko, have pointed to the impossibility of defending Ukrainian cities without the army actually being present there.

“Russian forces attack residential areas and kill and rape civilians so the Ukrainian army has to be there to protect them,” she said.

Ukrainian officials have urged residents of front line areas, especially in the eastern regions of Donetsk and Lugansk, to evacuate to avoid casualties and facilitate the Ukrainian army’s operation.

Many have left, but despite the warnings, about 10-20% of the population has remained in the eastern Donbas region, prompting the government to call for the mandatory evacuation of civilians from the area.

The secretary general of AI, Agnes Callamard, reacted to criticisms on Twitter by denouncing attacks by “Ukrainian and Russian social media trolls” and vowed it would not affect the organization’s impartiality or facts.

Earlier this week, the Center for Countering Disinformation (CCD) at Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council reported that Russia had attacked civilian targets 60 times more frequently than military ones.

Over 17,000 civilian targets were damaged in the first 5 months of the Russian invasion, according to CCD, while only about 300 military targets were attacked.EFE


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