Feb 18, 2023 - World

U.S. accuses Russia of committing crimes against humanity in Ukraine

Vice President Kamala Harris speaks at the Munich Security Conference on Feb. 18.

Vice President Kamala Harris speaks at the Munich Security Conference on Feb. 18. Photo: Sven Hoppe/picture alliance via Getty Images

MUNICH, Germany — The Biden administration has formally determined that Russia has committed crimes against humanity during the war in Ukraine, Vice President Kamala Harris said in her speech at the Munich Security Conference on Saturday.

Driving the news: The Biden administration has already accused Russia of committing war crimes in Ukraine. But it's the first time the U.S. has formally concluded that Russian forces are committing crimes against humanity. Secretary of State Tony Blinken said the U.S. reserves such "determinations for the most egregious crimes."

  • The U.S. determination comes just days before the one-year anniversary of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

What they're saying: “In the case of Russia’s actions in Ukraine we have examined the evidence, we know the legal standards, and there is no doubt: these are crimes against humanity,” Harris said, specifically pointing to attacks against civilians in Mariupol and Bucha.

  • "We will make sure that whoever was involved in those crimes will be held accountable," Harris stressed.

Blinken in a statement shortly after Harris' speech explained the determination was based on "a careful analysis of the law and available facts."

  • Blinken said there is clear evidence that members of Russia’s forces have "committed execution-style killings of Ukrainian men, women, and children; torture of civilians in detention through beatings, electrocution, and mock executions [and] rape."
  • He added that other Russian officials have deported hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian civilians to Russia, including children who have been forcibly separated from their families. Blinken said these actions were "part of the Kremlin’s widespread and systematic attack against Ukraine's civilian population."
  • Russia has repeated rejected accusations it targets civilians in Ukraine, despite mounting evidence to the contrary.

The big picture: Harris also expressed concern about China's position towards the war in Ukraine and about the possibility that China will provide weapons to Russia.

  • "China had deepened its relations with Russia since the war started. Every move by China to give lethal support to Russia will only lead to the continuation of the killing and undermine the rules-based world order," the vice president said.

What's next: Harris said the U.S. and its allies will continue supporting Ukraine and providing military assistance for as long as it takes.

  • "If Putin thinks he can wait us out he is badly mistaken. Time is not on his side. I am certain that Ukraine, U.S. and Europe will rise to the task," she stressed.
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