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HRW: Ukraine hostilities have damaged hundreds of schools

[JURIST] Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] said Friday that hostilities in eastern Ukraine have damaged [press release] or destroyed hundreds of schools, many of which were being used for military purposes. According to a detailed investigative report [text], government forces and Russia-backed militants have deployed forces in and near schools, turning the schools into legitimate military targets. The resulting destruction has either forced many children out of schools or caused schools to stop operating or to operate under overcrowded and difficult conditions. According to Yulia Gorbunova, a Ukraine researcher with HRW, "Civilians, including children, on both sides of the line of contact have been bearing the brunt of this protracted war." HRW's report explains that the armed conflict has eroded the quality of education even in places where children were not forced out of schools. HRW urged the Ukraine government to protect the safety of its children and their access to education, and to deter military use of schools by endorsing and implementing the international Safe Schools Declaration [text, PDF].

The conflict between Russia and Ukraine has continued to be a prevalent topic ever since the Crimean Annexation [JURIST backgrounder] in March 2014. In December the UN released a report stating [press release] that "serious human rights concerns persist," in Ukraine. In August a Russian military court sentenced [JURIST report] two Ukrainian activists to substantial jail time for the charge of conspiring to commit terror attacks. In March the EU committed to stand by [JURIST report] its policy of refusing to recognize Crimea's annexation, as they purport the illegality of Russia's referendum. Last February Russian liberal political activist Boris Nemtsov was shot in the back four times [BBC report] in the middle of busy downtown Moscow. Nemtsov was openly politically opposed to Russia's annexation of Crimea and its role in Ukraine, and many believe Vladimir Putin [official website] ordered [JURIST report] the killing. The conflict has often been labeled the biggest crisis between Russia and the West since the Cold War. US President Barack Obama has strongly condemned [JURIST report] Russia's military intervention in the region as a violation of international law.

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