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Ukraine TV cuts live interview after HRW rep refuses to admit ‘Russian aggression’

A live interview with an HRW representative on Ukraine's Hromadske TV came to an unexpected close when the host terminated the conversation after the guest refused to validate claims of Russia's alleged “indisputable war crimes.”

Hromadske TV journalist Danilo Janevsky abruptly cut off a live interview with Tatiana Lokshina, a representative of Human Rights Watch (HRW) after she refused to provide what she called a “political assessment” on the situation in eastern Ukraine.

HRW is tasked with the objective reporting of human rights violations as set out by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. These impartial reports do not produce a political verdict; rather, they are used as the basis for drawing international attention to abuses.

The interview – which began on a predetermined note to blame Moscow for the internal armed struggle in Ukraine – ended with the sudden, uncommon practice of cutting the guest off live on-air. It happened just as Lokshina was about to provide an impartial assessment of the abuses in the ongoing Ukrainian conflict.

“How does [the HRW] estimate rocket, heavy artillery and air attacks on the territory of the bordering sovereign state? Does it constitute a war crime, from your point of view? Yes or no?” Janevsky asked his program's guest.

Lokshina tried to explain that Human Rights Watch does not comment on matters of political responsibility.

Just as she began to say “If you want to hear what we have found...,” the conversation was abruptly cut off by Janevsky. “Thank you very much, our conversation is over,” he said.

That was Janevsky's last attempt to force the HRW representative to lay the blame on Russia during the course of the interview – but the journalist relied on a clearly anti-Russian rhetoric from the very beginning.

A local resident near an apartment building damaged by a rocket and mortar attack on Horlivka, Donetsk region. (RIA Novosti/Mikhail Voskresenskiy)

“How are Human Rights Watch and you personally estimating the atrocities of the Russian military thugs and their accomplices among the local population, who have been torturing, kidnapping and killing people for months and bombing international airlines?,” was the host’s first question. He then drew his own conclusion that “there are no war crimes that they haven't already committed.”

The Russian HRW spokesperson reminded viewers that the situation in Ukraine has been qualified as an “internal armed conflict,” both by HRW and the International Committee of the Red Cross – which of course was fervently rejected by the interviewer, who tried to get the conversation back on track by mentioning “Russia’s aggression against Ukrainian people.”

“What does [internal conflict] effectively mean? It means that right now during the conflict, there are international humanitarian laws, the rules of war, which should be observed. These rules ban certain actions. And they are banning them for all sides in the conflict,” Lokshina tried to continue.

Following the awkward interview, which has drawn much criticism in social media, Janevsky wrote on his Facebook page that he considers it “unacceptable” for guests such as Lokshina to “deny the reality of eastern Ukraine, humiliate our soldiers who bleed in the Donbas, deterring the Russian aggression.”

Screenshot from facebook page

The post, written in Ukrainian, has already received more than 2,400 'likes,' with most comments approving Janevsky’s harsh line of questioning of Lokshina. Some users accused her of being on a Russian government payroll for her refusal to provide a political assessment of the bloody conflict.

A small minority of comments said that Lokshina was just doing her job. That assessment seems to hold ground, as HRW did designate Ukraine's conflict to be “an internal, or non-international, armed conflict under international humanitarian law (the laws of war).”

In its recent report on Ukraine, HRW confirmed that the Ukrainian army is using indiscriminate Grad missiles to attack densely populated areas in Donetsk – which violates international law – while blaming the local militias. HRW did not report any evidence that militias were responsible for any Grad attacks on civilian-populated areas, but warned that they should avoid operating in those areas.