The Ukrainian military has endangered Ukrainian civilians by establishing bases and operating weapons systems in residential areas - including in schools and hospitals - as it has sought to repel the Russian invasion, Amnesty International said today.
Ukraine’s tactics have violated international humanitarian law as they’ve turned civilian objects into military targets. The ensuing Russian strikes in populated areas have killed civilians and destroyed civilian infrastructure.
Not every Russian attack documented by Amnesty has followed this pattern. In certain locations in which Amnesty concluded that Russia had committed war crimes - including in some areas of the city of Kharkiv - Amnesty did not find evidence of Ukrainian forces located in civilian areas unlawfully targeted by the Russian military.
Between April and July, Amnesty researchers spent several weeks investigating Russian strikes in the Kharkiv, Donbas and Mykolaiv regions. Amnesty inspected strike sites, interviewed survivors, witnesses and relatives of victims of attacks, and carried out remote-sensing and weapons analysis. Throughout these investigations, Amnesty found evidence of Ukrainian forces launching strikes from within residential areas as well as basing themselves in civilian buildings in 19 towns and villages in the regions. Amnesty’s Crisis Evidence Lab analysed satellite imagery to further corroborate some of these incidents.
Most residential areas where soldiers located themselves were miles away from front lines and viable alternatives were available that would not have endangered civilians - such as military bases, densely-wooded areas or other structures further from residential areas. In the cases it documented, Amnesty is not aware that the Ukrainian military asked or assisted civilians to evacuate nearby buildings - a failure to take feasible precautions to protect civilians.