The United States on March 23 formally accused Russian forces of committing war crimes in Ukraine and vowed to hold Moscow accountable, including through potential criminal prosecutions.
“Based on information currently available, the U.S. government assesses that members of Russia’s forces have committed war crimes in Ukraine,” U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced in a statement.
“Russia’s forces have destroyed apartment buildings, schools, hospitals, critical infrastructure, civilian vehicles, shopping centers, and ambulances, leaving thousands of innocent civilians killed or wounded,” Blinken said.
Many of the buildings the Russian forces have targeted were “clearly identifiable as in-use by civilians,” such as the maternity hospital and a theater in Mariupol, Blinken noted.
Blinken compared the Russian invasion on Ukraine to Russian campaigns against Grozny in the Second Chechen War and Aleppo during the Syrian civil war, “where they intensified their bombardment of cities to break the will of the people.”
Blinken made clear that the Russian troops were acting under the orders of Russian President Vladimir Putin, who “unleashed unrelenting violence that has caused death and destruction across Ukraine.”
However, Blinken did not directly accuse Putin of committing war crimes.
Blinken said that the assessment was based on available information from public and intelligence sources.
Blinken noted that a court of law would be “ultimately responsible” for determining Russia’s guilt or innocence over the alleged crimes.
“The U.S. government will continue to track reports of war crimes and will share information we gather with allies, partners, and international institutions and organizations, as appropriate. We are committed to pursuing accountability using every tool available, including criminal prosecutions,” Blinken said.
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