Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Wednesday announced that the State Department has made a formal assessment that Russian forces have committed war crimes in Ukraine.
“Since launching his unprovoked and unjust war of choice, Russian President Vladimir Putin has unleashed unrelenting violence that has caused death and destruction across Ukraine. We’ve seen numerous credible reports of indiscriminate attacks and attacks deliberately targeting civilians, as well as other atrocities,” Blinken said 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. Many of the sites Russia’s forces have hit have been clearly identifiable as in-use by civilians,” he continued.
He said this includes the Mariupol maternity hospital and “a strike that hit a Mariupol theater, clearly marked with the word “дети” — Russian for “children” — in huge letters visible from the sky. Putin’s forces used these same tactics in Grozny, Chechnya, and Aleppo, Syria, where they intensified their bombardment of cities to break the will of the people,” he said.
“Their attempt to do so in Ukraine has again shocked the world and, as President Zelenskyy has soberly attested, ‘bathed the people of Ukraine in blood and tears,'” Blinken said.
“Our assessment is based on a careful review of available information from public and intelligence sources,” Blinken said. “As with any alleged crime, a court of law with jurisdiction over the crime is ultimately responsible for determining criminal guilt in specific cases. 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.”
Ambassador-at-Large Beth Van Schaack declined to say directly whether Russian President Vladimir Putin himself could be tried under international law, saying it depended on which court had jurisdiction.
Ahead of the formal U.S. assessment, President Joe Biden last week said of Putin, “I think he is a war criminal.”
This is a developing story, Please check back for updates.