A leaked internal review commissioned by Amnesty International has found significant shortcomings in a controversial report by a rights group that accused Ukrainian authorities of illegally endangering citizens by deploying armed forces in civilian areas.

The report, released last August, sparked widespread outrage in Ukraine, prompting an apology from Amnesty International and a promise of an outside expert review of what happened.

Among those who condemned the report was Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who accused Amnesty International of shifting responsibility from the aggressor to the victim.

The Guardian newspaper said that the leaked review indicated that the controversial report was vaguely written, inaccurate, in addition to legal shortcomings in some parts of it.

The review, which was leaked by the New York Times, criticized the authors of the report, which accused the Ukrainian authorities of using a wording method to suggest that many or most of the civilian casualties in the war were killed as a result of Ukraine’s decision to place its forces near civilians at a time when Russian forces were intentionally targeting civilians.

The Guardian added: “It was the opening paragraphs that made those references, which could be read to suggest – although this wasn’t Amnesty International’s intention – that Ukrainian forces, on a systemic or general level, are primarily responsible or equally responsible with Russian forces, the killing of civilians as a result of Russia’s attacks”.

Immediately after the controversial report was published, Russia obtained a preliminary copy of it, including its embassy in London, and relied on it to make claims that the Ukrainian tactics were a violation of international humanitarian law at a time when Russian forces were accused of serious war crimes.

The leaked document said that it had learned from sources that Amnesty International had been reviewing an 18-page copy of the report for several months, amid pressure the organization was facing to downplay the findings of the report.

The controversy surrounding this case centered on allegations by Amnesty International that, by harboring military personnel in civilian buildings and launching attacks from civilian areas, Ukraine had violated international law on the protection of civilians.

The report was reviewed by five experts, including Emanuela Chiara Gaillard of the University of Oxford, Kevin John Heller of the University of Copenhagen, Erik Talbot Jensen of Brigham Young University, Marco Milanovic of the University of Reading and Marco Sassoli of the University of Geneva.

These experts questioned whether the authors of the original report correctly interpreted international law regarding Ukraine as a victim of aggression and whether there was evidence that Kiev had put civilians in harm’s way.

The leaked report also revealed that there was significant concern within Amnesty International prior to its publication over the question of whether the organization had sufficiently communicated with the Ukrainian government prior to the publication of the original report.

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