UK-based rights group Amnesty International issued an apology for causing “distress and anger” with its report accusing Ukraine of endangering civilians. Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky  was infuriated by the report.

The comments also triggered the resignation of Amnesty’s Kyiv office head. The rights group published the report on Thursday saying the presence of Ukrainian troops in residential areas increases risk to civilians during Russia’s invasion.

“Amnesty International deeply regrets the distress and anger that our press release on the Ukrainian military’s fighting tactics has caused,” it said in an email to Reuters.

Also Read | Strikes near Zaporizhzhia nuclear site to be ‘avoided at all costs’: IAEA head

“Amnesty International’s priority in this and in any conflict is ensuring that civilians are protected. Indeed, this was our sole objective when releasing this latest piece of research. While we fully stand by our findings, we regret the pain caused.”

Amnesty in its report listed incidents when Ukrainian forces appeared to have exposed civilians to danger in 19 towns and villages in the Kharkiv, Donbas, and Mykolaiv regions.

“We have documented a pattern of Ukrainian forces putting civilians at risk and violating the laws of war when they operate in populated areas,” Amnesty secretary-general Agnes Callamard said. “Being in a defensive position does not exempt the Ukrainian military from respecting international humanitarian law.”

Amnesty researchers witnessed Ukrainian forces using hospitals as “de facto military bases” in five locations, and in 22 schools. Even though the schools have shut amid the conflict, they were located in civilian neighborhoods.

“We have no say in what the military does, but we pay the price,” the report quoted one resident as saying.

Also Read | Ship from Ukraine to Lebanon brings hope, no solution to food crisis

Mykhailo Podolyak, a top aide to Zelensky, said that Ukrainian armed forces take all measures to move civilians to safety.

“The only thing that poses a threat to Ukrainians is (Russian) army of executioners and rapists coming to (Ukraine) to commit genocide,” he tweeted. “Our defenders protect their nation and families.”