Report: Ukrainian military camped out in towns harm residents

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NEW Fox News articles can now be heard on audio! According to a study Amnesty International released on Thursday, Ukrainian soldiers have occasionally put people at risk of Russian attacks by basing themselves in schools, homes, and other sites in inhabited regions.

The study from the human rights organization was criticized by Ukrainian officials as being “unfair” and a “part of a disinformation and propaganda effort.”

The results of Amnestys researchers were corroborated by multiple instances that AP journalists saw in recent weeks, including the aftermath of weapon strikes in eastern Ukraine where Ukrainian fighters, their trucks, or equipment like ammo were present at attack sites.

The AP received reports that a soldier or soldiers had died in two different places. At a third, unexpectedly, emergency personnel prevented the media from photographing the victims of a Russian attack on a residential structure where, according to the locals, military men were residing.

Amnesty International said in a report issued on Thursday that between April and July, its investigators “found evidence of Ukrainian forces launching strikes from within populated residential areas, as well as basing themselves in civilian buildings in 19 towns and villages” in three different parts of the nation.

A view of residential buildings damaged by a military strike in Sievierodonetsk, Luhansk region, Ukraine, on April 16, 2022.

A view of residential structures in Sievierodonetsk, Luhansk area, Ukraine, on April 16, 2022, after a military strike. (Serhii Nuzhnenko for Reuters)

Amnesty added that it discovered five instances of Ukrainian soldiers exploiting hospitals as military outposts, which it deemed “a flagrant breach of international humanitarian law.” According to the paper, “international humanitarian law compels the parties to a war to avoid putting military objectives within or near highly populated regions, to the utmost extent practicable.”

The report added that “viable alternatives were available that would not endanger civilians such as military bases or densely wooded area nearby, or other structures further away from residential areas,” along with the requirement that combatants remove civilians from the “vicinity of military objectives” and issue warnings about potential attacks.

However, the authors of the report emphasized that this practice by the Ukrainian military of placing military targets within inhabited areas “does not in any way justify indiscriminate Russian attacks.”

The remaining Donetsk people have been urged to leave by Ukrainian authorities numerous times, but it is difficult to start over elsewhere. Now Russia’s invasion, tens of thousands of residents have fled their homes but have since returned after finding no one to turn to or feeling welcomed.

One evacuee was killed in a missile attack two days after returning to the Donetsk city of Pokrovsk, according to an AP story from last week. The presence of Ukrainian fighters in their neighborhood on the outskirts of the city infuriated the neighbors. A uniformed fighter approached from the nearby plot of land and questioned the presence of the AP reporters as they examined the missile hole.

A Ukrainian service member shows a kindergarten damaged by a military strike in Sievierodonetsk, Luhansk region, Ukraine, on April 16, 2022.

On April 16, 2022, a Ukrainian service man displays a kindergarten that has been harmed by a military attack in Sievierodonetsk, Luhansk area, Ukraine. (Serhii Nuzhnenko for Reuters)

Residents in Kramatorsk, a city closer to the front lines, told the AP that soldiers had been residing there after a strike in a civilian area. The AP observed soldiers going in and out of a Kramatorsk residential complex that had been the target of a separate strike.

The AP also observed soldiers and military vehicles at a teaching university that was attacked in Kharkiv, the second-largest city in Ukraine. At a school for the disabled, where a Russian strike had left two craters in the schoolyard, soldiers and supplies were also present.

Amnesty International used satellite photos and remote sensing in addition to witness reports. While inspecting destroyed residential neighborhoods in the districts of Kharkiv, Mykolaiv, and Donbas, its researchers could hear firing coming from close-by Ukrainian positions. The Donetsk and Luhansk provinces make up the Donbas region, where the war’s most intensive fighting has been occurring since April.

Researchers were informed by the mother of a man killed in a rocket attack in a village close to Mykolaiv that Ukrainian military had stayed in a home next door. According to the article, there were military uniforms and supplies discovered by the researchers.

According to the rights organization, Ukraine’s Defense Ministry has not commented to the findings. The Amnesty report was first ignored by the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry, but later on Thursday, Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba published a video statement calling the study “unfair” and expressing his displeasure over it.

Vladimir Putin, president of Russia (Alexander Demyanchuk, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

According to Kuleba, “Such behavior by AI is not about seeking the truth and bringing it to the world, it is about creating a false balance between a criminal and a victim, between a country that is systematically eliminating civilian populations by the hundreds of thousands, (is destroying) cities and entire areas, and a country that is desperately defending itself, protecting its citizens and the continent from this invasion.”

Oleksii Reznikov, the minister of defense of Ukraine, added his voice through a Facebook post.

Any attempts to even obliquely draw parallels between unprovoked Russian aggression and Ukraine’s right to self-defense, as is done in the Amnesty International report, Reznikov added, “are indications of losing adequacy and a way to weaken ones authority.”

Mykhailo Podolyak, a presidential advisor, responded by accusing the group on Twitter of taking part in a “propaganda and disinformation effort” by Moscow to undermine Ukraine’s military forces.

The research, whose conclusions somewhat concur with Moscow’s official narrative, has been heavily quoted in Russian state and pro-Kremlin media. Russia has claimed that Ukrainian fighters are erecting fire positions there in order to justify strikes on residential populations.

Ukrainian servicemen stand by a destroyed house near the frontline village of Krymske, Luhansk region, in eastern Ukraine on Feb. 19, 2022.

On February 19, 2022, Ukrainian forces stand by a demolished home close to the frontline village of Krymske in the Luhansk area of eastern Ukraine. Photo by Vadim Ghirda for AP

According to Maria Zakharova, a spokesperson for the Russian Foreign Ministry, “Were talking about it all the time, calling the actions of the Ukrainian military forces the tactics of utilizing the civilian population as a human shield.”

According to Amnesty, Ukrainian military have frequently set up shop in schools. Despite the fact that Ukraine’s schools have been shut down since Russia’s invasion, the majority are near to residential areas. In 22 of the 29 schools they examined, the rights groups’ researchers discovered soldiers or proof of military activities.

The report stated that “in at least three towns, Ukrainian military withdrew to other schools nearby after Russian bombardment of the schools, placing the local neighborhoods at risk of similar strikes.”

Unknown is the issue’s full extent. In a separate report released last month, Human Rights Watch noted four instances in which Russian forces established military facilities in populous areas of Ukraine, compared to three instances in which Ukrainian forces were stationed near residences.

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