The head of Amnesty Ukraine resigned in protest over a controversial report alleging violations of international law by Ukraine’s military.
Amnesty International said it “deeply regrets the distress and anger” caused by Ukraine’s military after it was accused of violating international law by exposing civilians to Russian fire.
The rights group said “we fully stand by our findings” but stressed, “there is nothing we have documented that suggests the Ukrainian military has in any way supported Russian violations”.
Amnesty’s publication sparked outrage in Ukraine Report on Thursday which accused the army of endangering civilians by setting up bases in schools and hospitals and launching counter-attacks from heavily populated areas.
Oksana Pokalchuk, head of Amnesty’s Ukraine office, Resigned In protest, the rights organization accused it of parroting Kremlin propaganda.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said the group tried to “shift responsibility from the aggressors to the victims”.
Amnesty’s report lists incidents of Ukrainian forces endangering civilians in 19 towns and villages in Kharkiv, Donbass and Mykolayiv regions.
In a statement on Sunday, the rights group refused to back down on that assessment.
“[Amnesty] “Instances were found where Ukrainian forces positioned themselves next to where civilians lived, potentially exposing them to Russian fire,” it said.
“We based this assessment on the principles of international humanitarian law, which require all parties to a conflict to avoid locating military objectives in or near densely populated areas, to the maximum extent practicable.”
Nevertheless, Amnesty recognized the scale of the reactions its report had provoked.
“Amnesty International deeply regrets the distress and outrage caused by our press release about the fighting tactics of the Ukrainian military,” it said.
Since Russia’s invasion in February, Amnesty said it has interviewed hundreds of Ukrainian victims “whose stories illuminate the brutal reality of Russia’s war of aggression”.
“We have challenged the world to show solidarity with the Ukrainian people through concrete action, and we will continue to do so.”
Pokalchuk, the former head of Amnesty for Ukraine, spoke to Al Jazeera about war crimes in July. “Amnesty International has investigated and documented alleged war crimes abuses committed by Russia and Russia-backed forces, as well as the Ukrainian Armed Forces,” she noted at the time.