Aug 4, 2022 - World

Ukrainian military's tactics endangered civilians, new report says

Ukrainian forces

Ukrainian soldiers inspect a destroyed warehouse on the outskirts of Lysychansk, in the eastern Ukrainian region of Donbas on June 17. Photo: Aris Messinis/AFP via Getty Images

Ukrainian forces endangered civilians and exposed them to Russian attacks by basing themselves in residential areas such as schools and hospitals, according to a new Amnesty International report published Thursday.

Why it matters: The report alleges that these tactics by Ukrainian forces constitute a violation of international humanitarian law, which requires all combatants to "avoid locating, to the maximum extent feasible, military objectives within or near densely-populated areas."

  • "Other obligations to protect civilians from the effects of attacks include removing civilians from the vicinity of military objectives and giving effective warning of attacks that may affect the civilian population," the report noted.

The big picture: Amnesty International said that between April and July, its researchers found evidence of Ukrainian forces basing themselves in civilian buildings, as well as launching strikes from within residential areas, in 19 towns and villages across the Kharkiv, Donbas and Mykolaiv regions.

  • "Most residential areas where soldiers located themselves were miles away from front lines and viable alternatives were available that would not have endangered civilians," the report noted, adding that Amnesty was not aware of Ukrainian forces asking or assisting civilians to evacuate the area.
  • Amnesty International discovered Ukrainian forces using hospitals as military bases in five locations, the report stated, terming it a "clear violation of international humanitarian law."
  • The report also said that Ukrainian forces "routinely" set up bases in schools in the Donbas and in the Mykolaiv regions, and that these schools — while closed to students — were often located close to populated residential areas.
  • "At 22 out of 29 schools visited, Amnesty researchers either found soldiers using the premises or found evidence of current or prior military activity...Russian forces struck many of the schools used by Ukrainian forces," the report stated.
  • "In at least three towns, after Russian bombardment of the schools, Ukrainian soldiers moved to other schools nearby, putting the surrounding neighborhoods at risk of similar attacks."

Worth noting: Last week Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky ordered the evacuation of the Donetsk region as fighting continued.

What they're saying: “We have documented a pattern of Ukrainian forces putting civilians at risk and violating the laws of war when they operate in populated areas," Agnès Callamard, Amnesty International’s Secretary General, said in the report.

  • “Being in a defensive position does not exempt the Ukrainian military from respecting international humanitarian law," Callamard added.

Go deeper: What counts as a war crime and why they're so hard to prosecute

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