An August 4 report by Amnesty International (AI) has caused an unprecedented backlash in Ukrainian society and beyond with many questioning the conduct and effectiveness of international organizations since the start of the war.
Titled “Ukraine: Ukrainian fighting tactics endanger civilians,” it suggests that the Ukrainian army’s methods endanger civilians. In particular it states that the army “establishes bases and operates weapons systems in populated residential areas, including in schools and hospitals, as they repelled the Russian invasion that began in February.”
Although the report adds that “such violations in no way justify Russia’s indiscriminate attacks, which have killed and injured countless civilians,” Ukrainians deem it another example of a poorly judged and ill-timed pretense to take the higher moral ground in a time of war.
While Ukrainian civil society and international journalists, including those of British newspapers The Telegraph and The Times who picked up on the story and gave it negative publicity, it is the response by Head of Amnesty International Ukraine Oksana Pokalchuk that shows how aggravated the situation has become.
In a Facebook post on August 4, she thoroughly denounced the report, saying that the local office was not involved in its making.
“We did everything in our power to stop this report from being published. To our enormous regret, we reached an impasse, with our arguments on the inadmissibility and incompleteness of the material not being considered,” she wrote.
Pokalchuk publicly announced her resignation a day later, saying that no words could describe the pain she experienced as a result of the headquarters’ failure to consider the national office’s objections.
To some, this response may seem over the top, but when Ukraine’s army is fighting off a better-equipped enemy committing genocide on its soil, it is a matter of principle.
Fury with international organizations
Many international organizations have seemingly not done enough to help Ukraine fight off the invading Russian forces or to help alleviate the wider ramifications of Vladimir Putin’s war.
Russia continues to hold its seat at the United Nations Security Council which, according to Ukraine’s Ambassador to the UN Sergiy Kyslytsia, Moscow illegitimately seized after the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Despite violating virtually all key principles of the organization, Russia also remains part of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), ignoring an official request made by Ukraine to explain what its troops, which by then had encircled the country, had been used for prior to the invasion.
The International Committee of the Red Cross has received a mass of criticism for its questionable behavior, including Head Peter Maurer’s two-day visit to Moscow. It also baffled the public when it denied responsibility for ensuring the safety of prisoners of war following the July 29 Olenivka attack, begging the question of what its purpose is.
The fact that the OSCE left their employees behind and failed to destroy sensitive data, while the International Organization for Migration evacuated its international staff without providing help to Ukrainian employees, underscores just how irritable their attempts to take the higher moral ground have become to the public.
Standing up for Ukraine
High-profile officials and politicians are no longer standing aside, with angry criticism and memes emphasizing the ineffectiveness or irrelevance of these international organizations flooding social media.
In his address on August 4 President Volodymyr Zelensky publicly slammed the AI report, describing it as an “attempt to grant amnesty to the terrorist state and to shift blame from the aggressor to the victim of aggression.”
Meanwhile, Minister of Foreign Affairs Dmytro Kuleba castigated the AI chief Agnes Callamard’s tweet in defense of the report where she dubbed those criticizing it as “mobs” and “trolls” personally, saying: “Apparently Amnesty International Secretary General calls me a ‘mob’ and a ‘troll’, but this won’t stop me from saying that its report distorts reality, draws a false moral equivalence between the aggressor and the victim, and boosts Russia’s disinformation efforts. This is fake ‘neutrality,’ not truthfulness.”
While it is understandable why the international organizations and their adherents issue statements in defense of their activities and proclaimed impartiality, there is a limit when painting Russia’s unjustified and continuous horrific assault on Ukrainian people – which it dubs a “special operation” – in gray colors.
This war, however, is not a gray issue as Ukraine has never presented any threat to Russia. It has always been the Kremlin trying to subjugate and colonize it. Never the other way around, which makes the AI’s report, as one Ukrainian journalist put it, “an attempt to strike a balance between the Jews and Hitler” – a notion further fleshed out in the U.K. Envoy to Ukraine Melinda Simmons’ response to the report.
“The only things endangering Ukrainian civilians are Russian missiles and guns and marauding Russian troops. Full stop. If Russia stopped invading Ukraine, there would be no danger,” she tweeted.
It is hard to disagree with that statement.
Amnesty’s lame apology on August 7 for “the distress and anger” its report had caused without acknowledging its tactless inappropriateness has not helped matters and the damage to the organization’s reputation is done.
You can also highlight the text and press Ctrl + Enter