Aug 6, 2022 - World

Head of Amnesty International's Ukraine arm resigns after backlash to report

Oksana Pokalchuk, Director of Amnesty International Ukraine

Oksana Pokalchuk, director of Amnesty International Ukraine, attends the Global Policy Forum 2022 at Bocconi University on June 20 in Milan, Italy. Photo: Pier Marco Tacca/Getty Images

The leader of Amnesty International’s Ukraine arm resigned Friday amid fallout from a scathing report the human rights organization issued criticizing the Ukrainian military’s tactics amid the ongoing Russian invasion.

Driving the news: The report accused Ukraine of endangering its own civilians and allegedly violating international law. It prompted Oksana Pokalchuk, the leader of the watchdog organization’s Ukrainian arm, to resign, saying in a Facebook post the report had become “a tool of Russian propaganda."

What she’s saying: "If you don't live in a country invaded by occupiers who are tearing it to pieces, you probably don't understand what it's like to condemn an army of defenders," Pokalchuk said.

Catch up quick: The report said Ukrainian forces exposed civilians to Russian attacks by basing themselves in residential areas, schools and hospitals.

  • The report alleged the tactics were 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."
  • “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.
  • "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 stated.

Between the lines: Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky slammed the report Thursday. Amnesty International, he said, was attempting “to grant amnesty to the terrorist state and to shift blame from the aggressor to the victim of the aggression,” Politico reported.

The other side: “Both our investigations into Russian war crimes, and those into the Ukrainian military’s tactics, were carried out by the same experts from Amnesty International’s Crisis Response Programme,” the organization said in a statement Saturday, per Politico.

  • “Their findings reflected the same rigorous research standards and due diligence processes as all of Amnesty International’s work.”
  • The organization said it had reached out to the Ukrainian government about its findings in late July, but did not receive a response prior to releasing the report this week.

Go deeper: Live updates: Russian invasion of Ukraine

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