U.S. Accuses Russia of War Crimes in Ukraine

The U.S. government accused Russian forces in Ukraine of committing war crimes, an action that will formalize continuing investigations into alleged atrocities. (WSJ)

In a statement on Wednesday, Blinken said there have been numerous credible reports of “indiscriminate attacks and attacks deliberately targeting civilians” in Ukraine since Russia’s invasion began late last month.

“Today, I can announce that, based on information currently available, the US government assesses that members of Russia’s forces have committed war crimes in Ukraine,” he said.

“Our assessment is based on a careful review of available information from public and intelligence sources. As with any alleged crime, a court of law with jurisdiction over the crime is ultimately responsible for determining criminal guilt in specific cases.”

Russia denies that it has deliberately targeted civilians in its invasion of Ukraine, which has devastated Ukrainian cities and towns, and forced more than 3.5 million people to flee the country since fighting began on February 24. (Al Jazeera)

The designation, which doesn’t accuse Russian President Vladimir Putin or any other officials personally of war crimes, would entail the preservation by the U.S. government of information and potential evidence for future accountability, officials said.

The International Criminal Court, a body to which neither the U.S. nor Russia are parties, launched an investigation on March 1. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said at the time that Russia categorically rejects that inquiry.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken cited reports of attacks on civilian centers including apartment buildings, schools, hospitals, civilian vehicles and more, adding the sites were clearly identifiable as used by civilians. (WSJ)

The announcement follows a week after Joe Biden’s off-the-cuff remark that he considered Vladimir Putin a war criminal, triggering an official protest from the Kremlin, which warned that the comment could cause a breach in bilateral relations.

Asked if the state department designation applied specifically to Putin, Beth Van Schaack, the newly confirmed ambassador at large for global criminal justice, said it would be up to the courts to decide that. But she added: “There are doctrines under international law and domestic law that are able to reach all the way up the chain of command.”

The state department did not give details of specific attacks and incidents it considered to amount to war crimes. (Guardian)