The United States formally declares that the Russian military has committed war crimes in Ukraine

The official US statement that Moscow’s troops had violated the laws of the conflict comes after Blinken, President Joe Biden and Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman all said it was their personal opinion that war crimes had taken place.

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

“Our assessment is based on a careful review of available information from public and intelligence sources,” he said.

The decision to issue a formal indictment marks a significant step on the part of the US government after weeks of refusing to officially say that the attacks committed on civilians in Ukraine were war crimes. However, it remains to be seen whether there will be any accountability for those accused of committing the alleged crimes and whether Russian President Vladimir Putin himself will be forced to bear some responsibility.

Last week, Biden accused Putin of war crimes. “I think he’s a war criminal,” Biden said after remarks in the White House.

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“As with any alleged crime, a court with jurisdiction over the crime is ultimately responsible for determining criminal guilt in specific cases,” Blinken said Wednesday. “The U.S. government will continue to track war crimes reports and will share information we collect with allies, partners and international institutions and organizations, as appropriate. We are committed to pursuing accountability using every tool available. , including prosecution. “

Blinken’s statement cited “credible reports” of arbitrary and deliberate attacks on civilians, including the destruction of apartment buildings, schools and hospitals. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs specifically cited attacks on a maternity hospital and a theater in Mariupol. The theater, the Foreign Ministry said, was marked with the Russian word for “children” in letters visible from the sky.

Beth Van Schaack, the U.S. broad ambassador for global criminal justice, said she could not go into detail about what incidents the U.S. has assessed as war crimes and that the U.S. “looks at the broad area in which Russia’s forces are involved” in Ukraine.

“This will be an ongoing process throughout this conflict,” she said at a State Department briefing.

Van Schaack noted that “as with any alleged crime, it will ultimately be up to a court to determine individual criminal liability, who is directly responsible for these particular cases.”

Asked if Putin is responsible for the actions of members of his country’s armed forces – which the United States has accused of committing war crimes – Van Schaack said that “there are doctrines under international law and national law that are capable of reaching all the way up. the command path. “

“The US Government will continue to track reports coming out of Ukraine on war crimes and we will share this information with our friends and allies and with international and multilateral institutions as needed. We also support the Office of the Ukrainian Prosecutor General and their war crimes Directorate and support civil society’s documentation efforts, “she said.

Van Schaack said it was important that evidence be collected and preserved for future accountability.

This story has been updated with further reporting.

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