Amnesty International Condemns Ukraine For Setting Up Military Bases In Schools And Hospitals

Written by K. Walker on August 5, 2022

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Tens of billions in U.S. tax dollars have flowed into Ukraine since the war began. Now, Amnesty International is sounding the alarm on military tactics that are endangering civilians.

War is ugly. It’s always ugly.

It’s especially ugly when you’re fighting a powerful enemy and you’re the underdog.

Despite the assertions that “Russia is outmatched!” from of the Supporters of The Current Thing™ who quickly replaced their mask emojis with Ukraine flags in their social media bios and believed every urban legend from the defiance at Snake Island to the “Ghost of Kyiv” — the Ukrainian military is the underdog in this fight.

This is a fight for their survival as a nation against a superior military force. That’s not “pro-Putin propaganda” that’s just the facts.

To be clear, this author is hoping that Ukraine pulls off a helluva win ASAP because that’s the best outcome — but let’s not pretend that there are not problems with Ukraine. There is still rampant corruption in the country and the dispute over borders is nothing new — it has been going on for hundreds of years.

Frankly, if war had broken out back in 2014 when Putin annexed Crimea, it would be more understandable, but the weak Obama administration along with the corrupt Ukrainian government at the time just let it go, and the country is now desperately trying to not be swallowed up by Russia.

Still, just because you’re in a tough fight, that doesn’t mean that you get to ignore the rules of engagement. Especially when it puts your own civilians at risk.

Amnesty International investigators examined Russian strikes in the Kharkiv, Donbas and Mykolaiv regions between April and July.

A new damning report on the Amnesty website blasts the Ukrainian military for launching attacks from populated areas and putting civilians at risk.

Ukrainian forces have put civilians in harm’s way by establishing bases and operating weapons systems in populated residential areas, including in schools and hospitals, as they repelled the Russian invasion that began in February, Amnesty International said today.

Such tactics violate international humanitarian law and endanger civilians, as they turn civilian objects into military targets. The ensuing Russian strikes in populated areas have killed civilians and destroyed civilian infrastructure.

“We have documented a pattern of Ukrainian forces putting civilians at risk and violating the laws of war when they operate in populated areas,” said Agnès Callamard, Amnesty International’s Secretary General.

“Being in a defensive position does not exempt the Ukrainian military from respecting international humanitarian law.”

After examining strike sites, interviewing survivors, witnesses, and relatives of victims of attacks, and conducting remote-sensing and weapons analysis, researchers found evidence of Ukrainian forces launching strikes from residential areas still populated and basing themselves within civilian buildings in 19 towns and villages. Amnesty’s Crisis Evidence Lab has analyzed satellite imagery to further corroborate some of these incidents.

Amnesty International claims that Ukrainian forces don’t seem to be very concerned about keeping civilian populations safe. They’re choosing not to go to viable locations much closer to the front lines, instead opting for spots in urban areas and not bothering to evacuate civilians when they set up a base there.

Most residential areas where soldiers located themselves were kilometres away from front lines. Viable alternatives were available that would not endanger civilians – such as military bases or densely wooded areas nearby, or other structures further away from residential areas. In the cases it documented, Amnesty International is not aware that the Ukrainian military who located themselves in civilian structures in residential areas asked or assisted civilians to evacuate nearby buildings – a failure to take all feasible precautions to protect civilians.

Survivors and witnesses of Russian strikes in the Donbas, Kharkiv and Mykolaiv regions told Amnesty International researchers that the Ukrainian military had been operating near their homes around the time of the strikes, exposing the areas to retaliatory fire from Russian forces. Amnesty International researchers witnessed such conduct in numerous locations.

International humanitarian law requires all parties to a conflict to avoid locating, to the maximum extent feasible, military objectives within or near densely populated areas. Other obligations to protect civilians from the effects of attacks include removing civilians from the vicinity of military objectives and giving effective warning of attacks that may affect the civilian population.

The organization also found evidence of military bases in hospitals which they wrote is a “clear violation of international humanitarian law.”

Amnesty International researchers witnessed Ukrainian forces using hospitals as de facto military bases in five locations. In two towns, dozens of soldiers were resting, milling about, and eating meals in hospitals. In another town, soldiers were firing from near the hospital.

Same for schools that are currently closed to students because of the conflict but are located in residential areas.

The Ukrainian military has routinely set up bases in schools in towns and villages in Donbas and in the Mykolaiv area. Schools have been temporarily closed to students since the conflict began, but in most cases the buildings were located close to populated civilian neighbourhoods

At 22 out of 29 schools visited, Amnesty International researchers either found soldiers using the premises or found evidence of current or prior military activity – including the presence of military fatigues, discarded munitions, army ration packets and military vehicles.

Russian forces struck many of the schools used by Ukrainian forces. In at least three towns, after Russian bombardment of the schools, Ukrainian soldiers moved to other schools nearby, putting the surrounding neighbourhoods at risk of similar attacks.

Is this what the $40+ billion in U.S. aid alone to Ukraine has helped perpetuate?

As we’ve said earlier, Russia isn’t the good guy here. They’re firing indiscriminately in areas in order to do as much damage as possible.

Many of the Russian strikes that Amnesty International documented in recent months were carried out with inherently indiscriminate weapons, including internationally banned cluster munitions, or with other explosive weapons with wide area effects. Others used guided weapons with varying levels of accuracy; in some cases, the weapons were precise enough to target specific objects.

The Ukrainian military’s practice of locating military objectives within populated areas does not in any way justify indiscriminate Russian attacks. All parties to a conflict must at all times distinguish between military objectives and civilian objects and take all feasible precautions, including in choice of weapons, to minimize civilian harm. Indiscriminate attacks which kill or injure civilians or damage civilian objects are war crimes.
Source: Amnesty International

It would be nice if we could all have a good, honest assessment of what the hell is going on in Ukraine other than the occasional brief segment on “Tucker Carlson Tonight.”

Here’s a question — if you know your enemy is brutal and has no regard whatsoever for civilian casualties, why would you put civilians at risk by putting military bases in schools in residential neighborhoods and inside of hospitals?

One possible answer rather cynical one; for every civilian that they can parade around, they can claim that the fight is unjust and they are the innocent party that is being tormented by aggressors who care nothing for civilians.

This is precisely what Hamas so often does in the disputed region of Palestine — initiate attacks from civilian locations then cry foul when there is retaliation by Israel that causes civilian casualties.

It’s a good thing that Amnesty International is calling out Ukraine for this atrocious behavior, but will they dare condemn Hamas for doing the same?

ClashDaily's Associate Editor since August 2016. Self-described political junkie, anti-Third Wave Feminist, and a nightmare to the 'intersectional' crowd. Mrs. Walker has taken a stand against 'white privilege' education in public schools. She's also an amateur Playwright, former Drama teacher, and staunch defender of the Oxford comma. Follow her humble musings on Twitter: @TheMrsKnowItAll and on Gettr @KarenWalker