Statement on issuing a press release on Ukrainian combat tactics

Amnesty International deeply regrets the distress and anger that our press release on the Ukrainian army’s combat tactics has caused. Since the start of the Russian invasion in February 2022, Amnesty International has rigorously documented and reported on war crimes and abuses committed in Ukraine, reaching out to hundreds of victims and survivors whose stories illuminate the brutal reality of the war of Russian aggression. We have challenged the world to show solidarity with Ukrainians through concrete actions, and we will continue to do so.

Amnesty International’s priority in this conflict and in any conflict is to ensure that civilians are protected; indeed, that was our sole focus when publishing this latest research. Although we fully stand by our conclusions, we regret the pain caused and wish to clarify a few crucial points.

In our press release, we documented how, in the 19 towns and villages we visited, we found instances where Ukrainian forces had moved right next to where civilians lived, putting them potentially in danger from incoming Russian fire. We made this assessment on the basis of the rules of international humanitarian law (IHL), which require all parties to a conflict to avoid, whenever possible, placing military objectives in or near densely populated areas. populated. The laws of war exist in part to protect civilians, and it is for this reason that Amnesty International urges governments to respect them.

This does not mean that Amnesty International holds Ukrainian forces responsible for violations committed by Russian forces, or that the Ukrainian military is not taking adequate precautions elsewhere in the country.

We must be very clear: nothing we have documented about the actions of Ukrainian forces in any way justifies Russian violations. Russia bears sole responsibility for the violations it has committed against Ukrainian civilians. Amnesty’s work over the past six months and our multiple briefings and reports on Russia’s violations and war crimes reflect the scale and gravity of their impact on civilians.

Amnesty International wrote to the Ukrainian government on July 29 detailing our findings. In our letter, we included GPS coordinates and other sensitive information about locations, including schools and hospitals, where we had documented Ukrainian forces basing themselves among civilians. We did not make this information public in our press release because of the security risks it would pose to Ukrainian forces and the civilians we interviewed.

Amnesty International is not trying to give the Ukrainian army detailed instructions on how it should operate, but we are calling on the relevant authorities to fully respect their international humanitarian obligations.

Amnesty International’s priority will always be to ensure that the lives and human rights of civilians are protected during conflict.

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