The head of Amnesty International’s Ukraine department, Oksana Pokalchuk, announced her resignation after an NGO report accused the Ukrainian armed forces of putting civilians at risk, angering Kyiv.
“I am resigning from Amnesty International’s Ukraine department,” Pokalchuk said on her Facebook page Friday night, accusing the report published on August 4 of unwittingly serving “Russian propaganda.”
Amnesty International said on Friday it was taking full responsibility for its report accusing the Ukrainian military of endangering civilians in its resistance to the Russian invasion by setting up military infrastructure in residential areas.
The publication of the report the previous day had angered Kiev. President Volodymyr Zelensky went so far as to accuse the NGO of “trying to grant amnesty to the Russian terrorist state” by “simulating the victim and the aggressor in a certain way”.
“If you don’t live in a country that has been invaded by conquerors who are tearing it apart, you probably don’t understand what it is to condemn an army that defends its country,” added the head of Amnesty Ukraine.
He added that he tried in vain to convince Amnesty International’s management that the report was biased and did not take into account the views of the Ukrainian Defense Ministry.
According to Pokalchuk, Amnesty eventually “sent a request to the Ministry of Defense” but “gave him very little time to respond.” “Therefore, the organization unwittingly released a report that appeared to unwittingly support the Russian version. In an effort to protect civilians, this report became a tool of Russian propaganda,” he said.
In an earlier Facebook post, Pokalchuk claimed Amnesty had ignored her group’s pleas not to publish the report. “Yesterday I had the naive hope that everything could be fixed and that this text would be replaced by another one. But today I realized that this will not happen,” he added.
On Friday, Amnesty International secretary-general Anies Kalamar assured that the report’s conclusions “are based on evidence obtained during large-scale investigations subject to the same rigorous standards and verification process as all of Amnesty International’s work”.
In its report, which followed a four-month investigation, the NGO accused the Ukrainian army of setting up military bases inside schools and hospitals and launching attacks from residential areas, a tactic that violates international humanitarian law.
Amnesty, however, stressed that Ukraine’s tactics in no way “justify indiscriminate Russian attacks” on civilian populations.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said he was “outraged” by Amnesty International’s “unjust” accusations.