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Amnesty stands by report on Ukraine after its Kiev bureau chief resigns in protest

AMNESTY International is standing by its highly critical report on Ukraine after the head of its branch in the country resigned, accusing the human rights group of peddling pro-Russian propaganda. 

The study, published last Thursday, accused the Ukrainian armed forces of “endangering civilian lives” by deploying soldiers and military hardware in schools, hospitals and residential areas. 

It said that these actions were in breach of the Geneva conventions, while stressing this was no excuse for Russia’s indiscriminate shelling of residential areas. 

Amnesty’s report backed claims made by a number of people on the ground and the testimony of many civilians from the eastern part of Ukraine, who said that Kiev’s forces had destroyed their homes. 

However, Amnesty’s Kiev bureau chief Olga Pokalchuk said that the NGO had “unwittingly created material that sounded like support of Russian narratives.

“Seeking to protect civilians, this study instead has become a tool of Russian propaganda,” she said. 

“If you don’t live in a country invaded by invaders who are tearing it to pieces, you probably don’t understand what it’s like to condemn an army of defenders. 

“And there are no words in any language that can convey this to someone who has not felt this pain.”

Ms Pokalchuk said that her organisation had fought to block publication of the report, while Western media organisations have joined condemnation of the human rights group.

“The Times view on Amnesty International’s Ukraine report: Putin’s propagandists” was the headline of a leading article in Britain’s newspaper of record, whose standfirst added: “The human rights charity shamefully castigates the victims of Russian aggression.”

Writing in the Telegraph, Stephen Pollard described the NGO as “morally bankrupt” and “a de facto offshoot of Stop The War” with the same agenda of “the extreme left.”

Amnesty International insisted that it “fully stands by our research,” with secretary-general Agnes Callamard adding: “The findings … were based on evidence gathered during extensive investigations which were subject to the same rigorous standards and due diligence processes as all of Amnesty International’s work.”

It said that the Ukrainian Defence Ministry had not responded to a request for comment before a deadline that was given. 

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