Ukrainian troops endanger civilians by using houses and schools

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POKROVSK, Ukraine (TBEN) – According to The The Bharat Express News and a new report from Amnesty International, Ukrainian troops have sometimes exposed civilians to Russian attacks by settling in schools, residential buildings and other places in populated areas.

TBEN journalists have seen on several occasions in recent weeks attack sites in Ukraine’s second largest city, Kharkiv, and communities in the eastern region of Donetsk where Ukrainian fighters, their vehicles or other items such as ammunition were still present.

At two locations, the TBEN was told that a soldier or soldiers had died. In a third, aid workers blocked the media from filming victims of a Russian strike on a residential building, which was unusual; the locals said military personnel stayed there.

In a report released Thursday, Amnesty International said its investigators found “evidence of Ukrainian troops launching attacks from populated residential areas, as well as settling in civilian buildings in 19 cities and towns” between April and July in three regions of the country.

Amnesty also said Ukrainian troops were using hospitals as military bases in five locations, what the human rights group called “a clear violation of international humanitarian law”. The report noted that “international humanitarian law requires parties to a conflict “to avoid, to the extent possible, locating military targets in or near densely populated areas.”

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Fighters also must remove civilians from “proximity to military targets” and warn of potential attacks, the report said, adding that “viable alternatives were available that would not endanger civilians, such as nearby military bases or densely forested areas, or other structures further away from residential areas.”

At the same time, the authors stressed that “the Ukrainian military’s practice of locating military targets in populated areas in no way justifies indiscriminate Russian attacks.”

Ukrainian authorities have repeatedly asked the remaining residents of the Donetsk region to evacuate, but starting over elsewhere is not so easy. Tens of thousands of people who have left their homes since the Russian invasion have returned after losing support or feeling unwelcome.

The TBEN reported last week that an evacuee was killed in a rocket attack two days after returning home to the Donetsk city of Pokrovsk. Neighbors expressed anger that Ukrainian fighters had established their base in their residential area on the outskirts of the city. As TBEN journalists watched the missile crater, a uniformed fighter walked toward them from the adjacent patch of land, doubting their presence.

In the city of Kramatorsk, closer to the frontline, residents told the TBEN that soldiers were staying there after a strike in a residential area. The TBEN saw soldiers enter and exit an apartment building in Kramatorsk that had been hit by a separate attack.

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And in Kharkiv, the TBEN saw soldiers and military vehicles at a teaching university that was hit. Soldiers and supplies were also present at a school for the disabled where a Russian strike left two craters in the school yard.

Aside from witness statements, Amnesty International relied on satellite imagery and remote sensing. Investigators heard outgoing fire from nearby Ukrainian positions as they examined damaged residential areas in the Kharkov, Mykolaiv and Donbas regions. The Donbas region, which consists of the provinces of Donetsk and Luhansk, has seen the most intense fighting since April.

The mother of a man killed in a rocket attack in a village near Mykolaiv told investigators Ukrainian troops had been staying in a house next door to theirs. According to the report, the investigators found military uniforms and equipment there.

The Ukrainian Defense Ministry has not commented on the findings, the rights group said. Ukraine’s foreign ministry declined to comment to the TBEN on the Amnesty report.

The Russian state and pro-Kremlin media have quoted the report extensively, the findings of which are somewhat consistent with the official Moscow story. Russia has justified attacks on civilian areas by claiming that Ukrainian fighters set up firing positions there.

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“We talk about it all the time and call the actions of the Ukrainian armed forces the tactic of using the civilian population as a ‘human shield,'” Maria Zakharova, spokeswoman for the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, wrote on Telegram about the report.

Ukrainian soldiers have also regularly stationed themselves in schools, Amnesty said. Although Ukrainian schools have been closed since the Russian invasion, most are located near residential areas. The rights group’s investigators found soldiers or evidence of military activity at 22 of the 29 schools visited.

“In at least three cities, after Russian bombing of schools, Ukrainian soldiers moved to other schools nearby, putting the surrounding neighborhoods at risk of similar attacks,” the report said.

The full extent of the problem is unknown. A separate report from Human Rights Watch last month identified three occasions when Ukrainian troops were stationed in residential homes and four occasions when Russian troops set up military bases in populated areas of Ukraine.

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Follow TBEN’s coverage of the war in Ukraine at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

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