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HRW Calls on Germany to Pressure Ukraine on Civilian Casualties

A Ukrainian serviceman stands near armored vehicles during a ceremony with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko to mark the delivery of more than 100 pieces of military equipment to the Ukrainian armed forces, near Zhitomir, Ukraine, Jan. 5, 2015.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) is calling on Germany to press Ukraine's prime minister to ensure Ukrainian forces take all precautions to minimize harm to civilians in their fight against pro-Russia separatists in eastern Ukraine.

HRW says multiple times Ukrainian government forces and separatist militias in the eastern part of the country have put civilians at risk by using cluster bombs and Grad rockets — two types of weapons that cannot be precisely targeted.

The U.S.-based rights group addressed a statement Tuesday to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is to meet Thursday with Ukraine's Prime Minister Arseny Yatsenyuk in Berlin.

In addition, Human Rights Watch called on Merkel to press Ukrainian authorities for more thorough investigations of several incidents in which Ukrainian troops allegedly caused civilian casualties in eastern Ukraine.

HRW wants Yatsenyuk to specifically order Ukrainian troops not to use indiscriminate antipersonnel weapons in areas populated by civilians.

Rachel Denber of HRW said as an important Ukraine ally, "Germany has a special responsibility to make sure that [Ukraine's] leadership is actively enforcing the obligation to respect the laws of war and protect civilians."

Denber, who is the rights group's deputy director for Europe and Central Asia, says Ukraine has "done the right thing by starting an investigation, but that will mean nothing if they do not investigate thoroughly."

Ukrainian officials met with Human Rights Watch officials in December. HRW said they denied responsibility for several rocket attacks that it claims endangered civilians.

The United Nations estimates the conflict in eastern Ukraine has killed 4,364 soldiers and civilians on both sides and that more than 10,000 others have been wounded.