Head of Amnesty’s Ukraine office quits after group accuses Kyiv

Reading Time: 3 minutes

KYIV (Reuters) -The head of Amnesty International’s Ukraine office has quit the human rights body in a disagreement with it after the group accused Ukraine’s armed forces of endangering civilians by basing troops in residential areas during the Russian invasion.

Amnesty made the comments in a report published on Thursday that drew fierce criticism from the Ukrainian government. President Volodymyr Zelenskiy led denunciations of Amnesty’s allegations, accusing the group of “trying to shift the responsibility from the aggressor to the victim”.

Amnesty’s Ukraine head Oksana Pokalchuk said on Facebook late on Friday that she was resigning as she opposed the report’s publication, and now understood that she could not get it changed or removed.

Pokalchuk said Amnesty unwittingly “created material that sounded like support for Russian narratives of the invasion. In an effort to protect civilians, this study became a tool of Russian propaganda”.

Young volunteers from the ‘Repair Together’ initiative together with the local residents clean rubble from a house that was destroyed during the Russian invasion, at Ivanivka village, Chernihiv region, Ukraine, 30 July 2022 (issued 04 August 2022). Ivanivka village was under Russian occupation months ago and suffered heavy damage. The volunteer initiative ‘Repair Together’ is made up mostly of young Ukrainians living in Kyiv and other parts of the country and some foreigners.

The group of young people, most of whom before the Russian invasion were into Ukraine’s nightlife party culture, in the past months has been cleaning and repairing war-damaged buildings in the Chernihiv region, helping to restore Ukrainian communities which were under Russian occupation. Calling their gatherings ‘Toloka’ and relying on people’s donations and their own funds, the initiative that once started as a small group now gathers around 200 people on weekends. Chernihiv region was one of the most affected regions in Ukraine, becoming a battlefield with many people killed and buildings destroyed, and was partly under the Russian occupation from the beginning of the Russian invasion until early April. .


“It pains me to admit it, but we disagreed with the leadership of Amnesty International on values. That’s why I decided to leave the organization.”

Asked about Pokalchuk’s resignation, an Amnesty spokesperson quoted Agnes Callamard, the organisation’s secretary general, as saying: “Oksana has been a valued member of Amnesty staff, and has led the Amnesty International Ukraine office for seven years with many significant human rights successes.”

“We are sorry to hear that she is leaving the organization, but we respect her decision and wish her well.”

Asked about the criticism of this week’s report, Amnesty said it was preparing a further statement.

Ukrainian officials say they take every possible measure to evacuate civilians from front-line areas. Russia denies targeting civilians in what it describes as a “special military operation” in Ukraine.

Reporting by Pavel Polityuk Editing by Kim Coghill and Frances Kerry


Once you're here...

%d bloggers like this: