KYIV - Human rights group Amnesty International accused Ukraine on Thursday of endangering civilians by basing troops in residential areas during Russia's invasion in a report that Kyiv likened to Russian propaganda and disinformation.
President Volodymyr Zelenskiy led fierce Ukrainian denunciations of Amnesty's allegations, accusing the group of abetting what he called Russia's unprovoked attacks on Ukraine. The human rights group, he said, was "trying to shift the responsibility from the aggressor to the victim".
Amnesty workers witnessed Ukrainian forces "establishing bases and operating weapons systems" in some populated residential areas during visits to several frontline areas in Ukraine's east and south from April to July, the report said.
"We have documented a pattern of Ukrainian forces putting civilians at risk and violating the laws of war when they operate in populated areas," the report quoted Agnès Callamard, Amnesty International's secretary general, as saying.
She called on the Ukrainian government to ensure that its forces were located away from populated areas or for all civilians to be evacuated from those areas first.
Zelenskiy, in his nightly video message, said the group was trying to "amnesty the terrorist state" - a term he often uses for Russia.
"There are no conditions, and nor can there be, even hypothetically, under which any Russian attack on Ukraine becomes justified," said Zelenskiy, clearly agitated.
"Anyone who amnesties Russia and who artificially creates such an information context where some attacks by terrorists are supposedly justified or supposedly understandable, cannot fail to understand that, in doing so, they are helping the terrorists. And if there are such manipulative reports, then you share with them the responsibility for the killings of people."
Ukrainian Deputy Defence Minister Hanna Malyar said failing to criticise Russia's actions in the report "is like studying the actions of the victim without considering the actions of an armed rapist".
Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said he was "outraged" by the report, and urged Amnesty to "stop creating a false reality".
Ukrainian officials say they take every possible measure to evacuate civilians from frontline areas. Russia denies targetting civilians in what it describes as a "special military operation".
(Reporting by Max Hunder; Editing by Tom Balmforth, Christina Fincher, Ron Popeski and Daniel Wallis)