The head of Amnesty International in Ukraine, Oksana Pokalchuk, has resigned after the NGO published a report blaming Ukrainian armed forces for endangering civilians.
Kiev reacted with fury to the report accusing him of setting up bases and weapons in residential areas – including schools and hospitals – as he sought to repel the Russian invasion.
“I am resigning from Amnesty International in Ukraine,” Pokalchuk said in one statement on her Facebook page on Friday night, blaming the report on the unwitting service of “Russian propaganda.”
“Unless you live in a country that has been occupied by invaders and is tearing it apart, you probably don’t understand what it means to condemn an army of defenders,” the Amnesty Ukraine official added.
She said she had tried to convince Amnesty International management that the report was partial and did not take into account the views of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine.
Amnesty said on Friday it fully supported it report published on Thursday (August 4).
But Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy accused the NGO of shifting “responsibility from the aggressor to the victim” and “attempting to grant amnesty to the terrorist state” of Russia.
“His report distorts reality, draws false moral equivalence between aggressor and victim, and increases Russia’s disinformation efforts. This is false ‘neutrality,’ not truth.” Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said on Twitter.
Pokalchuk claimed that Amnesty had approached Ukraine’s defense ministry but “gave very little time for a response”.
“As a result, the organization inadvertently published a report that appeared to unwittingly support the Russian version. In an effort to protect civilians, this report has become a Russian propaganda tool,” she complained.
In an earlier Facebook post, Pokalchuk said Amnesty had ignored calls from her team not to publish the report. “Yesterday I had the naive hope that everything could be fixed and this text would be replaced with another one. But today I realized that this will not happen,” she added.
The NGO’s general secretary, Agnès Callamard, said she was sorry to hear of Ms Pokalchuk’s resignation, but added that she “respected her decision”.
“Oksana has been a valued member of staff at Amnesty International and has led its office in Ukraine for seven years, with many human rights successes,” she said on Saturday.
The previous day, Callamard insisted that the report’s conclusions were “based on evidence obtained during extensive investigations subject to the same rigorous standards and verification process as all Amnesty International’s work”.
In its report, released after a four-month investigation, Amnesty accused the Ukrainian military of setting up military bases in schools and hospitals and launching attacks from populated areas, a tactic it says violates international humanitarian law.
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