Charity warns that further armed conflict in Ukraine would be ‘devastating’ for millions

Human rights charity Amnesty International has warned that an escalation of the armed conflict in Ukraine could have “devastating” consequences for human rights in the region.

They say an escalation will threaten civilian lives, livelihoods and infrastructure, potentially sparking acute food shortages and causing refugee flows which could amount to a “continent-wide humanitarian disaster”.

This week Foreign Secretary Liz Truss attempted to urge Nato allies to “help supply defensive support” to Ukraine after Germany stopped Estonia shipping German-supplied weapons to Kiev.

Any enlarged conflict will further undermine human rights in the region through the likelihood of protracted guerrilla warfare in Ukraine, accompanied by illicit outflows of weapons and an influx of unaccountable private military contractors. Russia’s recent military record gives rise to particular concern.

In the ongoing conflict in Donbas in eastern Ukraine, Amnesty says that Russia-backed separatist forces violated international humanitarian law by using imprecise explosive weapons in populated civilian areas, as did Ukrainian forces. They also stationed and fired these weapons from homes and civilian infrastructure.

The economic devastation and its repercussions for the region – including in European countries reliant on Russian gas passing through Ukrainian territory – may be huge.

The present situation in parts of Ukraine is already serious – with rising prices for basic food and other goods, including medical supplies. This is particularly being felt by the very old, the very young and those on low incomes. Education has also been affected, with schools closing intermittently over the past two weeks amid heightened security concerns.

Agnès Callamard, Amnesty International’s Secretary General, said:

“The consequences of actual military force are likely to be devastating.

“The history of Russia’s military interventions – be it in Ukraine or Syria, or its military campaign at home in Chechnya – is tainted with blatant disregard for international humanitarian law.

“The Russian military has repeatedly flouted the laws of war by failing to protect civilians and even attacking them directly. Russian forces have launched indiscriminate attacks, used banned weapons and sometimes apparently deliberately targeted civilians and civilian objects – a war crime.

“If the West and Russia enter into a more bitter confrontation, this could potentially lead to more active intervention of the parties in regional conflicts throughout the world, weaponisation of energy policy and more countries prepared to use force as part of their foreign policy.”