After a critical report on Ukraine – Kyiv Amnesty chief resigns

The head of the Ukrainian section of Amnesty International, Oksana Pokalchuk, has resigned after a controversial report by the human rights organization to the Ukrainian military.

After a critical report on Ukraine – Kyiv Amnesty chief resigns

The head of the Ukrainian section of Amnesty International, Oksana Pokalchuk, has resigned after a controversial report by the human rights organization to the Ukrainian military. The lawyer announced this on Facebook. On Thursday, Amnesty International accused the Ukrainian army of unnecessarily endangering civilians with its military tactics.

"Unless you live in a country that has been invaded by invaders and is being torn apart, you probably don't understand what it's like to condemn the defense army," she writes on Facebook. "And there are no words in any language that can deliver it to someone who hasn't felt that pain."

Amnesty caused outrage in Kyiv with the report presented on Thursday. President Volodymyr Zelenskyy accused the organization of "putting victims and attackers on the same level, so to speak". In the report, Amnesty International accused the Ukrainian army of endangering civilians by setting up bases in residential areas, schools and hospitals.

Pokalchuk said she tried to warn Amnesty officials that the report was one-sided and did not adequately reflect Ukraine's position. However, she was ignored.

Amnesty says the organization contacted Ukraine's Defense Ministry officials on July 29, but they did not respond to a request for comment on the report's findings in time for its August 4 release.

Pokalchuk said that wasn't nearly enough time. “As a result, the organization inadvertently issued a statement that sounded like support for the Russian narrative. Instead, in an effort to protect civilians, this report became a Russian propaganda tool,” she lamented. Amnesty's Secretary General Agnès Callamard said on Friday that the organization "stands whole" by its report.

After the Russian-occupied Ukrainian nuclear power plant Zaporizhia was shelled, the risk of fire and radiation has increased. "The Zaporizhia nuclear power plant works with the risk of violating the norms for radiation and fire protection," announced the Ukrainian state nuclear agency Enerhoatom on its Telegram channel on Saturday. Both warring parties blame each other for the attack on the facility.

A nitrogen system and an auxiliary body of the power plant were damaged by the shelling the day before. "There remains the risk of hydrogen escaping and radioactive particles spreading, and the risk of fire is also high," Enerhoatom reported. The Ukrainian power plant personnel are trying to ensure the nuclear safety of the plant even under these conditions. However, the threat of occupation of the power plant by Russian troops remains high.

On Friday, the plant in the city of Enerhodar in the Zaporizhia region caught fire due to shelling, but it was extinguished. A block of the nuclear power plant had to be shut down. The power supply in the city was partially lost. While Moscow blamed Ukrainian troops, Kyiv said the Russians had shelled the area themselves. The information cannot be verified independently.

The Russian military says it has killed almost 600 Ukrainian soldiers with air and artillery strikes. "Near the town of Bilohirka in the Kherson region, airstrikes and artillery fire hit the temporary location of the 46th Ukrainian Air Assault Brigade," Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said on Saturday. More than 400 "nationalists" were killed. In addition, more than 70 other soldiers were killed and 150 injured by rocket attacks on the front in Cherson. More than 80 "foreign mercenaries" died in rocket attacks in the Dnipropetrovsk region.

Konashenkov also reported on the destruction of several artillery systems in Ukraine. A battery of Olcha and Himars rocket launchers was destroyed. Himars are long-range, accurate US multiple rocket launchers. In the past, Moscow has repeatedly reported that these weapon systems have been taken out of action. Kyiv and Washington later denied this. There is also no independent confirmation for Konashenkov's current report.

The head of the military administration deployed by Russia in the occupied southern Ukrainian region of Cherson, Volodymyr Saldo, is in an artificial coma in an intensive care unit in Moscow with symptoms of poisoning. "Today he was flown from Crimea to Moscow in an artificial coma on a special plane," reported the Russian Telegram channel Baza. His condition is considered critical, poisoning is mentioned as a possible cause.

The 66-year-old Saldo was born in Ukraine and was already politically active before the Russian invasion. He was mayor of Cherson from 2002 to 2012, after which he sat in parliament for ex-President Viktor Yanukovych's party until 2014. In 2015 he lost the election for mayor of Kherson. Shortly after the occupation of large parts of southern Ukraine, Saldo was then installed by the Russians as head of the military administration in Kherson.

Saldo is in Moscow's Sklifosovsky Institute for Emergency Medicine - a special clinic that also specializes in poisoning. He was initially hospitalized with suspected heart attack and stroke, but the suspicion was not confirmed. Instead, the doctors expressed the suspicion that he had been poisoned. His health deteriorated rapidly over time, so he was put into a coma.

Saldo is considered one of the main targets of Ukrainian partisan activities, which have intensified in southern Ukraine in recent weeks. An attack on a local official of the occupation authorities became known on Saturday.

In view of the strained international agricultural markets as a result of the Ukraine war, farmers in Germany can use more land for growing grain. To this end, the new EU regulations on set-aside and crop rotation are to be suspended once. That is what a compromise proposal by Agriculture Minister Cem Özdemir (Greens) envisages. The farmers' association welcomed the step and emphasized on Saturday that the proposal came at the last minute. Approval also came from the federal states and from the FDP.

Özdemir wants to enable farmers to use agricultural land for the cultivation of certain crops for food production for longer. The additional species protection areas actually planned are not to be introduced until 2024. Farmers could then continue to grow food on these areas in the coming year.

The background to this are EU regulations that will take effect from 2023, according to which part of the agricultural land is used for species protection and, in addition, the cultivation of the same crop two years in a row on the same area should no longer be possible to protect the soil.

Against the background of the war in Ukraine, the head of the Federal Office for the Safety of Nuclear Waste Management, Wolfram König, calls for a new safety assessment of nuclear energy. "We have to carry out a new risk assessment - also and especially against the background of the war in Ukraine," said the President of the Federal Office for the Safety of Nuclear Waste Management (Base) of the specialist publication "Tagesspiegel Background".

In Ukraine, the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant had previously been shelled again. Russia and Ukraine blame each other for this. The largest nuclear power plant in Europe is located in the part of southern Ukraine occupied by Russia – there have been tricky situations there several times in the past months of the war.

König went on to say: "The risks are not just about the immediate safety of the nuclear power plants." The unresolved issue of radioactive waste disposal is currently taking a back seat. He also sees a danger for the search for a repository. “With a re-entry into nuclear power, the basis of the search process would be called into question. The fragile social consensus would also be in danger.”

According to British military intelligence, the war in Ukraine is about to enter a new phase. Most of the fighting was therefore shifted to a front almost 350 kilometers long, which stretched in the south-west parallel to the Dnieper from the area around Zaporizhia to Cherson. This was announced by the Ministry of Defense in London on Saturday on Twitter from the latest intelligence report.

According to the findings, Russian forces were almost certainly gathering in southern Ukraine. There they expected a Ukrainian counter-offensive or were preparing a possible attack of their own.

Long Russian convoys of military trucks, tanks and artillery are still moving southwest from Donbass in eastern Ukraine, the intelligence report said. Tactical battalions numbering 800 to 1,000 soldiers have been stationed on the Crimean peninsula and are likely to support Russian troops in Kherson. The region lies across from Crimea, annexed by Russia in 2014, on mainland Ukraine.

According to British information, the Ukrainian armed forces are concentrating their attacks on bridges, ammunition depots and railway connections in the south. Among them is the strategically important railway connection that connects Cherson with Crimea. The Ukrainian attacks are coming at ever shorter intervals.

According to information from Kyiv, the Russian troops are attacking Bakhmut with all severity, a cornerstone of the defense system around the last Ukrainian-held conurbation in the Donbass. "The enemy is launching an attack on Bakhmut, fighting continues," the Ukrainian General Staff said in its situation report on Saturday. The day before, the pro-Russian rebels had reported that fighting was already taking place within the city limits. The information provided by both sides cannot be checked independently.

Since the capture of the Luhansk Oblast, Russian offensive efforts in eastern Ukraine have focused on the neighboring Donetsk Oblast. Gradually, the Russian invaders have been able to push back the Ukrainian defenders in recent weeks. They now control about 60 percent of the territory. The headquarters of the Ukrainian troops in the Donbass is located in the Sloviansk-Kramatorsk conurbation, where a good half a million people lived before the war. From the east, this area is secured by the Siwersk – Soledar – Bakhmut line of fortifications.

This is now faltering in several places. Russian troops are also in front of Siwersk and Soledar. However, the heaviest fighting is currently taking place around the Bakhmut traffic junction, which the Russians are shelling with artillery and tanks.

The fighting is also continuing in front of the former regional capital of Donetsk, which has been in the hands of pro-Russian separatists since 2014. The troops loyal to Moscow are trying to push the Ukrainians further away. In the area of ​​the small town of Avdiivka, north of Donetsk, there had been several attempted attacks that had been repelled, the General Staff reported. The area is bombarded with artillery over a large area.

In the south of the country, however, the initiative is passed to the Ukrainians. There, the Russian troops concentrated on defending their positions in the occupied territories, according to the situation report. The Southern Command of the Ukrainian military previously reported that it had destroyed at least six Russian arms and ammunition depots and two command posts in the Kherson region. There is no independent confirmation for this information either.

Russia and Ukraine blame each other for the shelling of the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant site. The largest nuclear power plant in Europe is located in the part of southern Ukraine occupied by Russian troops - there have been several dicey situations there in the past months of the war.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyj spoke of an "act of terrorism" by the Russian side and called for new sanctions aimed at the neighboring country's nuclear industry. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Kyiv warned that if a reactor were hit while it was in operation, the possible consequences would be “equivalent to using an atomic bomb”.

"Anyone who creates nuclear threats for other peoples is definitely not in a position to use nuclear technology safely," Zelenskyj said on Saturday night. Specifically, he demanded punitive measures against the Russian state-owned company Rosatom.

Just a few days ago, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) expressed concern about the situation around the power plant, which, with six blocks and an output of 6,000 megawatts, is the largest nuclear power plant in Europe. An inspection to check technical safety is urgently needed, said IAEA boss Rafael Grossi. But it is currently very difficult for the IAEA to even get into the war zone in Zaporizhia.

In parts of the city of Enerhodar, where the power plant is located, the power and water supply failed, the Russian Ministry of Defense announced - and blamed the Ukrainian army for it. In addition, a block of the nuclear power plant had to be partially shut down. The information could not be independently verified. The Ukrainian side, on the other hand, said the Russians had shelled the area themselves.

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