Selenskyj under criticism – is the USA now doubting its relationship with Ukraine?

“Amnesty International” criticizes the Ukrainian military and the USA is said to have doubts about Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. Image: picture alliance /The Presidential Offi | The Presidential Office of Ukraine / Sven Simon


US journalist Thomas Friedman reports that American officials have doubts about the Ukrainian government. The tenor: One is concerned about corruption and arms smuggling activities. “Amnesty International” is also heavily critical of Ukraine – especially of the military.

Anne Kathrin Hamilton

“Let them United States Zelenskyy fall” trended on Thursday evening Twitter. The renowned US journalist Thomas Friedman writes in his opinion piece for the “New York Times“: There is deep mistrust between the White House and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

At the same time, a report the human rights organization “Amnesty International” for excitement. The Ukrainian The military endangers its own civilians and thus violates international humanitarian law.

What are the allegations about and is the mood now changing in relation to Zelenskyy and his government? Watson took a closer look at this for you.

Claims by a US journalist

Thomas Friedman is a journalist and columnist for The New York Times. In his column, he criticizes Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan as “absolutely inconsiderate” and also packs explosive information about the relationship the US government and the Ukraine.

He writes:

“In private, US officials are much more concerned about Ukraine’s leadership than they admit. There is deep distrust between the White House and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy – far more than previously reported.”

Friedman also called Zelenskyy’s recent personnel decisions “strange happenings” and explained: “On July 17, Zelenskyy fired his country’s attorney general and head of domestic intelligence – the most significant upheaval to his administration since the Russian invasion in February.”

The US journalist and columnist Thomas Friedman writes for the "New York Times".

US journalist and columnist Thomas Friedman writes for the New York Times.Image: IMAGO/Xinhua

Friedman draws the conclusion from this that the US government in Kyiv does not want to look too closely under the covers, “for fear of corruption or scandals that we might discover – after investing so much there”. The journalist, who is very well connected in Washington, wants to report more about the “dangers” in the near future.

“The Biden administration is aware that any public doubt about Ukraine would have consequences […]. The beneficiary would be Putin.”

US expert Dominik Tolksdorf, German Society for Foreign Policy

US experts evaluate the relationship

However, Michael Desch gives the all-clear. The relationship between the US and Ukraine is more stable than Friedman’s rhetoric portrays it. “The Biden administration has long been aware that it has important disagreements with the Ukrainian government,” he told Watson. Desch is a professor of international relations at the University of Notre Dame, Indiana.

According to US expert Dominik Tolksdorf, there are always doubts about Zelenskyy and members of his government within the US government. The US government will not express this publicly. “The Biden government is aware that any public doubts about Ukraine would have consequences and would quickly spark debates about Western resolve. The beneficiary would be Putin,” the scholar told Watson.

He further says:

“The U.S. has so far provided significant support to Ukraine, more so than most other Western countries. Support is also shared by many Republican senators. However, there is increasing debate in Congress as to whether there is sufficient accountability for the military aid provided to ensure that the weapons do not end up in the hands of the wrong actors in the future.”

According to Tolksdorf, these questions will also play a role in the 2024 US presidential election. “Especially in the House of Representatives, there are candidates, especially on the Republican side, who criticize US aid for what they see as a corrupt country.”says the political scientist at Deutsche company for foreign policy.

Many Republican senators have shared Ukraine’s past support. Some of those who would like to be newly elected to the Senate will criticize the aid as being too generous and not transparent. “You will fundamentally question why the US is even getting involved in the war”explains Tolksdorf.

In a war that Putin started with the illegal attack on Ukraine. The human rights organization “Amnesty International” accuses Russia already committed war crimes.

Criticism of a human rights organization

But the organization is also keeping an eye on the Ukrainian military and is now criticizing it, as a recent report shows. There it is said that the Ukrainian combat tactics endanger their own civilians because the Ukrainians set up their military bases in populated residential areas. This also makes schools and hospitals the target of military attacks. The action is a violation of international humanitarian law.

Between April and July of this year, Amnesty International spent several weeks investigating Russian attacks in the Kharkiv, Donbass and Mykolaiv regions. According to the organization, she inspected attack sites, interviewed survivors, witnesses and relatives of victims of attacks.

The investigations show that Ukrainian forces launched attacks from populated residential areas and stationed themselves in civilian buildings. The organization has also analyzed satellite imagery to further substantiate some of these incidents.

Schools and hospitals as targets

The report also criticizes the fact that Ukrainian soldiers are retreating to hospitals. The use of these facilities for military purposes is a clear violation of international humanitarian law. In addition, the military routinely sets up bases in schools, for example in the Donbass and in the Mykolaiv region. Schools have been temporarily closed since the conflict began, but in most cases the buildings were located near populated neighborhoods.

“The defensive position does not absolve the Ukrainian military from respecting international humanitarian law.”

Agnès Callamard, Secretary General of Amnesty International

“We have documented a pattern of Ukrainian forces endangering civilians and violating the laws of war when operating in populated areas,” said Agnès Callamard, Secretary-General of Amnesty International. “The defensive position does not absolve the Ukrainian military from respecting international humanitarian law.”

Agnès Callamard, Secretary General of Amnesty International, is behind the criticism of Ukraine's military.

Agnès Callamard, Secretary General of Amnesty International, is behind the criticism of Ukraine’s military.Image: picture alliance / ASSOCIATED PRESS / Christophe Ena

According to Amnesty, the results of the research were available to the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense at the end of July. At the time of publication, there was no response.

Head of the Ukrainian office defends its own military

Oksana Pokalchuk, head of “Amnesty International Ukraine” criticizes this approach. “Representatives of the Ukrainian office have done everything possible to prevent this material from being published,” asks the Ukrainian lawyer in her statements on Facebook Celebration.

Oksana Pokalchuk, the head of "Amnesty International Ukraine" strongly criticizes the allegations against the Ukrainian military.

Oksana Pokalchuk, the head of “Amnesty International Ukraine” has strongly criticized the allegations against the Ukrainian military.Image: picture alliance / AA / Dogukan Keskinkilic

The Ukrainian office was not involved in the preparation or drafting of the text. Pokalchuk criticizes that her team’s arguments regarding the inadmissibility and incompleteness of the data collected were not taken into account.

She writes:

“We asked to send us all versions of the material in advance. Unfortunately, this did not happen. We persuaded our colleagues to request an official statement from the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine, but at the same time they did not give us enough time to received a reply and released the research without comment from the ministry.”

Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podoliak reacted with outrage at the report. He accuses Amnesty of being involved in a Russian propaganda campaign aimed at stopping western arms deliveries. Residents are evacuated from cities close to the front – precisely because that life of the civilian population is a priority for Ukraine, the Ukrainian politician explains on Twitter.

The Ukrainian President Zelenskyy also commented on “Amnesty International” in his daily speech on Thursday: “If someone makes a report that sort of puts the victim and the attacker on an equal footing, if certain things about the victim are analyzed and the actions of the attacker are ignored, then that cannot be tolerated.”

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