Pro-Russia Rebels in Eastern Ukraine 'Use Ambulances to Move Fighters'


Human Rights Watch report says rebels expropriated emergency vehicles, and criticises both sides for using imprecise weaponry

Pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine have expropriated ambulances to transport able-bodied fighters and threatened medical staff, according to a Human Rights Watch (HRW) report due out on Tuesday.

The organisation, which has also criticised pro-Kiev forces for using imprecise Grad rockets in civilian areas, found a number of instances of rebels stationing fighters at hospitals, seizing or destroying medical equipment and using ambulances to transport fighters.

“Pro-Russian insurgents’ attacks on medical units and personnel are putting sick and vulnerable people and those who care for them at risk,” said Yulia Gorbunova, HRW’s Europe and Central Asia researcher. “This appalling disregard of people who are sick or wounded can be deadly and needs to stop immediately.”

The organisation called on Moscow to use its leverage to prevent the abuse of medical equipment and facilities.

“With its influence over rebel forces in Ukraine, Russia should insist that they adhere to norms of international humanitarian law, including the special protections afforded to medical units and personnel as well as to the wounded and sick,” the report said.

It also documented at least five cases of hospitals being hit by explosives, resulting in the deaths of at least two medical workers. HRW said it was not certain who had attacked the hospitals, but given that four of them were in areas controlled or occupied by insurgents, there was a strong suggestion that Ukrainian forces were responsible. It said even if rebel fighters had occupied hospital premises, it was not acceptable for Ukrainian forces to attack them there.

The full article continues at on The Guardian’s website.