Amnesty International has said the Ukrainian army is endangering the life of civilians by basing themselves in residential areas, in a report rejected by Ukrainian government representatives as placing blame on it for Russia’s invasion.
Ukraine’s deputy defence minister, Hanna Maliar, accused Amnesty of “distorting the real picture” and of failing to understand the situation on the ground. She said Ukrainian soldiers were deployed in cities and populated areas to defend them from Russian attack.
“There is no chronology of events [in the report]. The Russian Federation is committing the crime here. Ukraine is protecting its land. Moscow ignores all the rules of war. And unlike Ukraine, it doesn’t let in international organisations like Amnesty,” said Maliar.
Speaking at a briefing in Kyiv, Maliar stressed that the Ukrainian armed forces laid on buses to evacuate civilians from the frontline. Some refused to go, despite repeated pleas and offers of transport to safer regions. Ukraine gave access to outside agencies, including the international criminal court, and carried out its own investigations into abuses committed by its troops, she said.
Oleksii Reznikov, Ukraine’s minister of defence, said “any attempt to question the right of Ukrainians to resist genocide, to protect their families and homes … is a perversion”, and presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak tweeted that “the only thing that poses a threat to Ukraine is a Russian army of executioners and rapists coming to Ukraine to commit genocide”.
Maliar argued at the briefing that Ukrainian anti-aircraft systems needed to be based in towns to protect civilian infrastructure, and if Ukrainian forces were only based outside urban settlements “Russian armed forces would simply sweep in unopposed”.
Ukrainian social media users also responded with examples of when Russian forces have hit buildings being used by civilians, as well as the scores of crimes committed against Ukrainian civilians under Russian occupation.