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High Level Secretary General Mission to Ukraine: End of Mission Statement (20 May 2022)

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1. INTRODUCTION

An Amnesty International delegation, led by Secretary General Agnès Callamard, conducted an official country visit to Ukraine from 30 April to 6 May 2022. The objectives of the visit were fourfold:

  • Release Amnesty’s latest findings on war crimes and other international humanitarian law (IHL) violations, including extrajudicial executions committed in Bucha and air strikes targeting civilian infrastructure in Borodyanka;

  • Contribute to ongoing reflections about and initiatives for international justice for Ukraine and present Amnesty’s recommendations on accountability for war crimes and the crime of aggression;

  • Demonstrate global solidarity with the people of Ukraine, human rights defenders, Amnesty colleagues from Ukraine, including those who have remained in Ukraine;

  • Emphasize the importance of global solidarity: The events in Ukraine raise grave issues which are not confined to Europe but are global in impact. That demands global leadership and global solidarity, inclusive of the Global South. With that in mind, we also sought to respond to accusations of the West’s double standards in response the Ukraine crisis.

The Secretary General warmly thanks the Ukrainian authorities for their availability and support during the visit, including senior officials from the Office of the President, Minis-try of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Interior, Ministry for Reintegration of the Temporarily Occupied Territories, Ministry of Healthcare, as well as the Ombudsperson of Ukraine and the Commissioner for Gender Equality Policy.

She and her delegation are particularly grateful to the survivors of human rights violations and war crimes whom they met in Bucha and Bonodyanka and members of Ukrainian civil society organisations.

The delegation also held a meeting with AI Ukraine colleagues in the office of AI Ukraine, a very emotional moment for all those present.

The Secretary General presents the visit’s findings and wishes to draw attention to a number of issues with which she engaged during her visit in the country.

2. CONTEXT OF THE MISSION

On 22 February 2022, the Russian Duma (Parliament) resolved to recognize the Russia-backed self-styled “Donetsk People’s Republic” and “Luhansk People’s Republic” (“LDNR”) in Donbas, eastern Ukraine, as independent states. The Duma also authorized the deployment of Russian military forces outside of Russia to Ukraine, describing it as a “peacekeeping operation”.

It was the second time that Russia moved to openly occupy sovereign Ukraine further to the 2014 occupation and illegal annexation of Crimea, and further to its officially denied military presence in eastern Ukraine since then. These actions undermine the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine by contravening international law and agreements, including the 2014-2015 Minsk Accords which recognize Donbas as part of Ukraine. The move also nullified a ceasefire agreed under the Minsk Accords and blocks any envisaged peaceful outcome of the eight-year armed conflict between Ukrainian forces and the Russia-backed separatists. The Minsk Accords, which were signed by the representatives of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), Russia, Ukraine, and “LDNR”, were also endorsed by a UN Security Council Resolution, and called for a significant degree of autonomy for the two regions inside Ukraine.

On 24 February 2022 Russia launched a full-scale invasion into Ukraine, crossing its bor-ders and bombing military targets near and in large cities, some of its forces reaching the

immediate outskirts of Kyiv the same morning. Over the last two months, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has triggered the largest refugee crisis in Europe since the end of World War Two and has resulted in countless violations of international humanitarian and human rights law.

Thus far over 4 million people have left Ukraine, and more are doing so all the time. 3.8 million are officially registered as internally displaced, although the actual number is probably far higher. Hence the International Organization for Migration (IOM) estimates that 7 million Ukrainians have been internally displaced since 2014.
Amnesty International, and many others, have documented scores of war crimes and other violations of IHL, primarily by Russian forces, which include:

  • Disproportionate and indiscriminate attacks resulting in deaths and injuries of civilians,

  • Extrajudicial killings, acts of torture, in areas that had been occupied by Russian military forces prior to their retreat,

  • Siege warfare tactics, characterized by relentless indiscriminate attacks on densely populated areas, most notably in Mariupol,

  • The use of cluster munitions which is banned under international law,

  • Disruption of basic utilities and cuts to communication,

  • Destruction of civilian infrastructure,

  • Concerns over restrictions to access to medicine and healthcare,

  • Abuses against prisoners of war (including by Ukrainian forces).

Efforts to create well-planned, safe humanitarian corridors to allow civilians to escape have faced major challenges. Many Ukrainian civilians have been unable to leave besieged areas, fearing Russian attacks – and some have been shot and killed while trying to flee to safety.

There are major ongoing concerns in the Eastern part of Ukraine which is currently experiencing the brunt of the conflict, and numerous allegations of forcible transfers and deportations of populations from occupied territory.