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

FILE PHOTO: A member of the Ukrainian National Guard jumps into a trench at a position near a front line, as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues, in Kharkiv region, Ukraine August 3, 2022. REUTERS/Vyacheslav Madiyevskyy/File Photo

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".

"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 PolityukEditing by Kim Coghill and Frances Kerry)

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