The head of Amnesty International’s Ukraine branch has resigned after the human rights organization accused Kyiv of endangering civilians and violating international laws with its warfare tactics.
The organization released a report on Thursday accusing Ukrainian military forces of violating international humanitarian laws and endangering civilians with tactics that include setting up bases and operating weapons systems in schools, hospitals and other populated residential areas.
Oksana Pokalchuk, head of Amnesty International Ukraine, said in a Facebook post Friday evening that the report “became a tool of Russian propaganda. Pokalchuk said she decided to leave because of a disagreement over values with the leadership of Amnesty International.
Pokalchuk said Amnesty International’s office in Ukraine has consistently requested that the report take into account the position of the country’s defense ministry. However, when the group finally contacted the ministry, Ukrainian officials had very little time to respond, she said. Amnesty said on Thursday it contacted the Ministry of Defense on July 29.
“As a result, the organization unwittingly created material that appeared to support Russian narratives,” Pokalchuk wrote. “Seeking to protect civilians, this research has instead become a tool of Russian propaganda.”
Thursday’s report sparked fury in Kyiv. Senior officials, including Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, rejected it. Zelenskyy accused Amnesty International of “attempting to grant amnesty to the terrorist state and shift the responsibility of the aggressor onto the victim of the aggression”.
When the report was released, Pokalchuk said Amnesty’s Ukraine office had not been involved in its preparation.
In an emailed statement on Saturday, Amnesty International said: “Our investigations into Russian war crimes and those into the tactics of the Ukrainian military were carried out by the same experts from Amnesty International’s Crisis Response Program . Their findings reflect the same rigorous research standards and due diligence processes as all of Amnesty International’s work.
Stating that it has “clearly and categorically condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine”, the organization said that “we also believe it is crucial to respond impartially”.
When contacting the Ukrainian government on July 29, Amnesty said it “asked them to provide a response by August 3, but received no response.”