The US says Russia has committed crimes against humanity

MUNICH — The United States has determined that Russia committed crimes against humanity in Ukraine, Vice President Kamala Harris said Saturday, insisting that “justice must be served” against those responsible.

Speaking at the Munich Security Conference, Harris said the international community has both a moral and strategic interest in pursuing these crimes, pointing to the risk of other authoritarian governments benefiting if international rules are undermined.

“Russian forces have pursued widespread and systematic attacks against the civilian population — horrific acts of killing, torture, rape and deportation,” Harris said. He also mentioned “death penalty-style murders, beatings and electrocutions”.

The Biden administration formally ruled last March that Russian troops committed war crimes in Ukraine and said it would work with others to prosecute the perpetrators. The Crimes Against Humanity Resolution goes one step further by showing that attacks against civilians are widespread and systematic.

“Russian authorities forcibly deported hundreds of thousands of people from Ukraine to Russia, including children,” Harris said. “They brutally separated children from their families.”

He also pointed to a mid-March attack on a theater in the strategic port city where civilians had taken refuge, killing hundreds, as well as images of civilian bodies left on the streets of Bucha as the Russians retreated. Kyiv area last spring.

Harris said that as a former prosecutor and former head of the California Department of Justice, he knows “the importance of gathering the facts and putting them against the law.”

“In the case of Russia’s actions in Ukraine, we have studied the evidence, we know the legal standards, and there is no doubt,” he said. “These are crimes against humanity.”

Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, who also attended the Munich conference, said in a statement released during Harris’ speech that “we reserve crimes against humanity among the most heinous crimes.”

The new decision underscores the “staggering extent” of suffering inflicted on Ukrainian civilians and “also reflects the deep commitment of the United States to hold members of Russian forces and other Russian officials accountable for their atrocities,” he said.

Harris told the annual gathering of security and defense officials from around the world. “Let’s all agree. On behalf of all victims, both known and unknown, justice must be served.”

“That is our moral interest,” he said. “We also have a significant strategic interest.”

“No nation is safe in a world where one country can violate the sovereignty and territorial integrity of another, where crimes against humanity are committed with impunity, where a country with imperialistic ambitions can go unchecked,” Harris added.

If Russian President Vladimir Putin succeeds in attacking international rules and norms, “other nations may feel emboldened to follow his violent example,” he said. “Other authoritarian forces may seek to bend the world to their will through coercion, disinformation, and even brute force.”

Harris’ audience on Saturday did not include Russian officials. The organizers of the conference decided not to invite them this year.

During the event, when asked about the determination of the US, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmitry Kuleba replied that “Russia waged a genocidal war against Ukrainians because they do not recognize our identity and do not think that we deserve to exist as a sovereign nation.”

“All that follows from this are crimes against humanity, war crimes and other atrocities committed by the Russian army on the territory of Ukraine,” he said. “Let the lawyers find out which specific act belongs where in terms of legal qualification.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called on Western allies to speed up their military support to Ukraine at the Munich conference on Friday, saying that “life depends on that speed.”

Kuleba expressed confidence that Ukraine will eventually receive fighter jets from its partners, despite their current reluctance. He noted that they initially pushed back six other types of heavy weapons that were later delivered or promised to Ukraine: anti-tank weapons, artillery, multiple launch missile systems, air defense systems, tanks and long-range missiles.

“So the only prominent type of weaponry is aircraft,” Kuleba said.

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