A military escalation of the conflict in Ukraine could be devastating for the rights of millions of people, rights group Amnesty International has warned.
Some 100,000 Russian troops have amassed on Ukraine’s border, prompting the United States and its NATO allies to warn of impending sanctions and using political manoeuvres in an attempt to deter a possible Russian attack on Ukraine. Moscow says its actions are purely defensive and accuses Kyiv and the West of provocative behaviour.
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In a statement on Friday, Amnesty International warned that an escalation of the armed conflict in Ukraine will detrimentally impact civilian lives, their livelihoods and infrastructure.
“The threat of the use of military force by Russia is already affecting the human rights of millions of people in Ukraine and beyond,” said Agnes Callamard, Amnesty International’s Secretary General.
“The consequences of actual military force are likely to be devastating,” she continued. “Ukraine’s recent history is punctuated by conflicts involving Russian troops in Donbas and the illegal annexation of Crimea. These episodes have torn communities and lives apart, as military forces have trampled on the rights of civilians with impunity; it’s time to break that vicious cycle.”
Economic and social rights have already witnessed a negative impact, with rising prices for basic foods and goods affecting people’s right to healthcare and to an adequate standard of living in Ukraine, the statement said.
The right to education has also been affected with schools closing intermittently during the past two weeks amid security concerns. In Russia itself, the rouble has dropped in value and prices are rising.
Andreas Krieg, an associate professor in the defence studies department at King’s College London, said any Russian invasion of Ukraine would carry “a lot of risks for casualties on both sides”.
“In the land warfare domain, particularly on Ukraine’s eastern and northern flanks, it is very well defended, especially after receiving training and supplies from the West since 2014,” Krieg told Al Jazeera, citing Russia’s annexation of the Crimea and backing of a separatist uprising in Ukraine’s east.
“But there is a weak underbelly towards the south, with Crimea being occupied by Russia, and there is a possibility of the Russians using their advantage in the naval space or in the airpower space,” he added.
Tensions have simmered for months, with Russia issuing a list of wide-ranging security demands, including guarantees that NATO will halt expansion and that Ukraine be permanently barred from joining the alliance.
However, this week the US and the Western alliance firmly rejected Moscow’s main demands, saying allied deployments of troops and military equipment in Eastern Europe are non-negotiable.
On Friday, Putin said the responses to Russia’s security demands delivered by the US and NATO did not address Moscow’s principal concerns. He would “carefully study” the responses before deciding on further actions.
In response to US President Joe Biden saying a Russian invasion could be a possibility by next month, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov reiterated that Russia did not want a war with Ukraine.
For his part, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy urged Western nations not to create “panic” about the Russian troop buildup on its border, pointing to the need to avoid hurting Ukraine’s already battered economy.
Speaking at a news conference, Zelenskyy said: “I don’t consider the situation now more tense than before. There is a feeling abroad that there is war here. That’s not the case.”