In the conflict between the Ukrainian military and pro-Russian separatists, both sides have been accused of atrocities, including execution-style killings. But there’s a propaganda war going on too, and it has led to not only exaggerations about the number of executions, but a culture in which deaths and injuries sustained in battle are kept off the books in hospitals and other official tallies, according to a new report by Amnesty International.
Delegates from the human rights organization investigated the conflict in eastern Ukraine during two trips in late August and late September, the report said. While the media in both Ukraine and Russia have frequently reported massive human rights violations, the stories are frequently “poorly substantiated or unsubstantiated,” Amnesty found.
In one example, Russia-controlled media reported the discovery of mass graves in two villages in the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine on Sept. 23. A separatist official told media that the bodies of 40 civilians had been found, and Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov later estimated the count at 400 bodies.
Amnesty visited the area Sept. 26, and found that three grave sites containing a total of nine bodies existed, five of which were separatists who had been killed in fighting. The other four were likely executed by forces aligned with Kiev, but “Russian authorities have significantly exaggerated the number of bodies found and the scope of the war crimes committed,” Amnesty officials said.