The sharp rebuke came after three more ships carrying more than 58,000 tonnes of Ukrainian grain were due to leave Black Sea ports on Friday under a recent deal between Moscow and Kiev aimed at easing global food shortages.

This handout video, made and released by the press service of the Ukrainian presidency on March 12, 2022, shows Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speaking in the capital, Kyiv. Photo: Handout/THE PRESIDENCY OF UKRAINE/AFP

KYIV – Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky lashed out at Amnesty International after it accused his forces of violating international law and endangering civilians in their defense against a Russian invasion.

The sharp rebuke came after three more ships carrying more than 58,000 tonnes of Ukrainian grain were due to leave Black Sea ports on Friday under a recent deal between Moscow and Kiev aimed at easing global food shortages.

In a report on Thursday, Amnesty listed incidents in 19 cities and towns in which Ukrainian forces appeared to have put civilians at risk by setting up bases in residential areas – findings that Zelensky likened to victim blaming in his evening speech.

The human rights group, he said, sought to offer “amnesty (for) a terrorist state and shift responsibility from the aggressor to the victim.”

“There are no conditions, even hypothetically, under which any Russian attack on Ukraine becomes justified. Aggression against our state is unprovoked, aggressive and terrorist in nature,” he added.

“If someone makes a report in which the victim and the aggressor are supposed to be equal in some sense… then that cannot be tolerated.”

After a four-month investigation, Amnesty found that the Ukrainian military had set up bases in schools and hospitals and launched attacks from populated areas, arguing that such tactics violated international humanitarian law.

The group, however, noted that such tactics “in no way justify Russia’s indiscriminate attacks” on civilians.

According to the mayor, on Thursday Russian bombings hit several towns and villages, including Mykolaiv in the south of the country, where residential buildings were damaged in two districts.

Eight people were killed and four wounded Thursday in a Russian strike on a bus stop in Taretsk, near the eastern front line, the regional governor announced.

And in Kharkiv, the country’s second most populous city, local authorities reported Russian missile attacks on industrial zones.

Ukrainian forces are waging a counteroffensive in the country’s south, where they say they have retaken more than 50 villages previously controlled by Moscow.


Meanwhile, three more ships loaded with Ukrainian corn were supposed to leave on Friday morning – two from the city of Chernomorsk and one from Odessa, from where the first cargo of grain to leave Ukraine since the beginning of the war left on Monday.

Grain supplies to world markets have been able to recover under an agreement reached last month between Kiev and Moscow — brokered by Turkey and under the auspices of the United Nations — in an attempt to ease a crisis that has led to a sharp rise in food prices in several countries.

Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar called Friday’s expected departures “the intensive work of the Joint Coordination Center,” state news agency Anadolu reported. The center monitors the implementation of the agreement.

The agreement provides for the creation of safe corridors in the Black Sea so that merchant ships can export 20 to 25 million tons of Ukrainian grain detained in the port.

The agreement signed at the same time allows Russia to export agricultural products and fertilizers, despite Western sanctions.

Turkey hopes the agreements can build trust and lead to a ceasefire between the two countries.


Separately, the European Union announced on Thursday that it is imposing sanctions on former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych and his son Alexander for allegedly undermining Ukraine’s security.

Yanukovych was ousted in 2014 as a result of a popular uprising against the pro-Russian stance taken by his government. After his rejection, Moscow annexed the Crimean peninsula of Ukraine and eastern Donbass.

The EU claims that Yanukovych, now 72, who lives in Russia, continues to play “a role in undermining or threatening the territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence of Ukraine, as well as the stability and security of the state.”

The sanctions document accuses him of conspiring to return to power if a Russian invasion succeeds in ousting Zelensky. His son is accused of “dealing with separatist groups in the Donbass”, referring to Russian proxy forces.

Meanwhile, Finland unveiled plans on Thursday to limit tourist visas for Russians who are increasingly flocking to the country to transit to other European countries after flights from Russia were disrupted by EU sanctions.

Finland, together with Sweden, is applying for NATO membership, and on Wednesday the USA will ratify the protocols on the accession of the two countries.

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