How much truth is there in Amnesty's Ukraine report?

Amnesty International has defended its report on the way the Ukrainian army has conducted itself in the war despite fierce criticism. Kyiv, for its part, has accused the human rights organisation of confusing perpetrator and victim. The head of the Ukrainian chapter of the human rights organisation has resigned and explained her decision saying that Amnesty is parroting Russian propaganda. The dispute is also reflected in the media.

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Tages-Anzeiger (CH) /

Russia does not differentiate anyway

It's the attacker and not the defender who turns cities into battlefields, the Tages-Anzeiger fumes:

“Russian warfare is so brutal that it does not differentiate between military and civilian targets, as the ruins of Mariupol prove. But cities are bastions of resistance and an enormous obstacle for attackers. According to the strange logic of the Ukraine report one would also have to accuse the Red Army of violating international law when it defended Stalingrad against the Wehrmacht in 1942. Although there were still civilians in the ruined city, the Soviet soldiers fought for every house. What else could they have done?”

De Volkskrant (NL) /

Caught in the propaganda trap for a second time

Amnesty International is playing into Russia's hands, De Volkskrant laments:

“Amnesty could have foreseen the political impact of the report. Last year the organisation came under fire when it stripped Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny of his status as a political prisoner because of discriminatory remarks he had made in the past. The Russian authorities gratefully exploited this to justify their harsh treatment of him. Amnesty International's being caught for the second time in the Russian propaganda trap will not do its reputation any good.”

Helsingin Sanomat (FI) /

The difference lies in the magnitude

It is important that war crimes on both sides are exposed, Helsingin Sanomat stresses:

“A war that follows rules is an illusion. Russia violates the rules of war and, according to Amnesty, so does the Ukrainian army. But there is a clear difference in magnitude. Russia is waging a brutal war of aggression in Ukraine; Ukraine is stubbornly defending its existence.”

Verslo žinios (LT) /

Further cooperation questionable

Verslo žinios no longer trusts the human rights organisation:

“Such a loss of sanity on the part of AI casts doubt on the research conducted by this organisation in other countries (including Lithuania), on its objectivity and factualness. And thus also on whether further cooperation with the organisation makes sense. After all, we are dealing with very sensitive areas of investigation where it is essential that the researcher has a flawless reputation. After this scandalous report and turning a deaf ear to the criticisms of lawyers and other experts, and without the resignation of the head of AI, further cooperation (with governments and the media) could make a negative impression on the public. Such 'research' and 'reports' belong in the waste bin.”

Oxana Pokaltschuk (UA) /

Involuntary support for Moscow's propaganda

After her resignation as head of the Ukrainian chapter of Amnesty, Oxana Pokalchuk explains on Facebook why she rejects the report:

“It is not that human rights organisations should not document the actions of the Ukrainian armed forces. ... But such important reports must also say something about the other side of the war and who initiated it. ... We know that Amnesty representatives contacted the Ministry of Defence, however they gave it a very short deadline to respond. ... As a result, without intending to the organisation has published material that sounds like support for the Russian narrative.”

Novaya Gazeta Europe (RU) /

Biased and distorted

Novaya Gazeta Europa accuses the NGO of manipulation and unprofessionalism:

“The human rights organisation has devised a special form of Newspeak: a system for describing the events of the war which completely distorts the cause-and-effect relationship and does not allow the reader to get a complete picture of what is happening. ... If such a report were submitted as an article to any self-respecting publication, the editor would throw it out of the window and dismiss the correspondent.”

Denik (CZ) /

Self-defence does not justify everything

Certain requirements for waging war must also apply to Ukraine, Deník writes in defence of Amnesty's report:

“Should the report be relegated to a drawer? Not at all. The Russian leadership is the aggressor, and Ukraine the invaded country that is defending itself against a stronger invader. However if Ukraine goes against the law and puts the public in unnecessary danger, its actions may be understandable tactically but they are not excusable. ... Both the West and Ukraine's leadership should take Amnesty's report seriously and draw consequences. No one can demand that Ukraine fight brutal invaders with kid gloves. But it must not deliberately hold civilians hostage.”

Libertatea (RO) /

Kyiv's typical knee jerk reaction to criticism

Kyiv tore up the notice but that is the standard response to inconvenient truths, writes journalist Marin Gherman, who was brought up in Ukraine and now works in Romania, in Libertatea:

“For the Ukrainian state, criticism often means not just disagreeing but also being the enemy. ... There have been a good deal of emotional, unreasoned reactions by Kyiv to various accusations or even minor comments from outside in the past. Council of Europe reports are a case in point: All of the resolutions passed by this international organisation, which suggested amendments to the country's education act or other regulations concerning minority rights, were either sharply criticised by Kyiv or simply ignored.”

taz, die tageszeitung (DE) /

Public reception not taken into account

The report unintentionally plays into Moscow's hands, the taz criticises:

“The fact that Russia is attacking Ukraine and not the other way around, and that the danger for Ukrainian civilians arises from Russia's is firing at civilian targets has been swept under the table. This was predictable, as there is no room for differentiation in the emotionally charged atmosphere surrounding the war in Ukraine. A seasoned human rights organization like AI should know this. It should be able to anticipate how its reports will be received by the public. And it should be able to publish its findings in such a way that they do not enable a perpetrator-victim reversal in Moscow and provoke outrage in Kyiv.”

Il Manifesto (IT) /

Not the time for conspiracy theories

Even though the report criticises Kyiv's defence strategy, it does not mean Amnesty is siding with Putin, Il Manifesto points out:

“The Ukrainian resistance is not a holy, pristine struggle, as it has been portrayed for months by almost the entire international community. ... This report constitutes an executioner's axe for the Kyiv narrative, which has always portrayed Russian generals as calculating sadists who attack public buildings only to sow panic among the civilian population and claim as many victims as they can. ... It would be foolish to describe Amnesty as pro-Russian or, as all manners of conspiracy theorists like to say, as 'subservient to the strong powers', even though more than a few will try to do just that.”