Godspeed Mrs Pokalchuk

The expression war crimes will never cease to amaze me. War is a crime. Period. Assuming that war activities may not be a crime is, more than a definition, an excuse to whitewash the actions one of the sides pretends to go unpunished.

From the beginning of the intervention of Russia in the Ukraine war we have been bombarded with the most sordid details of war crimes claimed to have been perpetrated by the Russian armed forces. We could resume most of those crimes as “attacks directed on purpose to the civilian population of Ukraine”. Like with everything, some will be true, some will be fake, and some claimed to be true were even dismantled by simple observation. But most peculiar, it seems that NO WAR CRIME at all as ever perpetrated by the Ukrainian army.

From February that this war is a war between the good and the dark side, the good and the bad, the light and the dark. There is, there cannot be, a middle ground. This crusade narrative has been boosted with stories of heroic actions by the simplest people. Two come to mind. The Kyiv mother that, In the last days of February, wrote her phone number and a small in the back of her five-year-old chid for the case they would get separated, and does so in English. The other is the story of the Mariupol swimmer that, mid-March, escaped the city’s siege by swimming 2 and half hours in the Sea of Azov which, on that season, has a temperature of 3 to 5 degrees. The first is just non-sense and the second humanly impossible.

The Ukrainian war, never too much to repeat, was barely mentioned by western media between 2014 and February 2022, despite the eight-year-long OSCE mission (meanwhile closed) daily reports and the more than evident violations, mostly by the Ukrainian armed forces side, of the Minsk Agreements that had intended to establish a road-map for peace in the Donbass.

But since February our newsfeeds, be it social networks or “respectable” media, have been full of single sided reports chirurgical created by the Ukrainian Special Services. This is possible due to late March decree by the Ukrainian president that combined all national TV channels under one same platform in order to have a “unified information policy” capable of delivering “the truth about the war”. In other words, all information about war in Ukraine needs to be validated by the Ukrainian Secret Services before being made available. Meanwhile in the west this censorship posture of the Ukrainian authorities was accompanied with the ban of some, not all, Russian information channels (only those working also in English) and with silencing all those western journalists working on the “other side of the barricade”.

On August 4th a report by Amnesty International, titled “Ukrainian Fighting Tactics Endanger Civilians” was published. To avoid any guidance the report should read by those interested. With one last section about the indiscriminate attacks by Russia, the report gives a heavy resume of the behaviour of Ukrainian forces in its 3 first sections, of which I’ll share just the title with you: Launching strikes from populated civilian areas, Military bases in hospitals, Military bases in schools.

This report has led, as expected, to a discreditation campaign conducted by the Ukrainian authorities against Amnesty International. As mentioned above this is a crusade, there is no middle ground: we’re either 100% with Ukraine or we are pro-Russians. This black-and-white perspective had already been questioned when Pope Francis, among all people, claimed to be “opposed to reducing complexity to distinction between good and bad”. Translating: there is never only good on one side nor only evil on the other.

On the aftermath of the above-mentioned report the, Oksana Pokalchuk, head of Amnesty International in Ukraine presented her resignation. This comes, she publicly states, after “representatives of the Ukrainian office [doing] everything they could to prevent this [report] from being made public”. In her defence for trying to silence the organisation she claims to be so proud of she has worked with, Pokalchuk states that those who have “not felt this pain” of living in a country “invaders are tearing to pieces”, “don’t understand what it’s like to condemn an ​​army of defenders”. The argument of Mrs Pokalchuck is that the eventual war crimes of committed by the Ukrainian army should not be investigated.

In her announcement of departure, which she signs as “Amnesty International team in Ukraine”, she says to have “joined Amnesty International in Ukraine almost 7 years ago because, first of all, I [she] shared the organization’s values”.

All is said. Godspeed Mrs Pokalchuk.