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AG Garland meets with top Ukrainian prosecutor to ensure ‘deconfliction’ of war crime cases

The meeting comes after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said during a weekend interview on PBS News Hour that Russian President Vladimir Putin appears to be ready to "end the war as soon as possible."

WASHINGTON (CN) — Attorney General Merrick Garland met with Ukrainian Prosecutor General Andriy Kostin on Tuesday and signed a memorandum of understanding to ensure each country’s Russo-Ukrainian war crime prosecutions do not conflict as the war entered its 204th day.

Garland and Kostin discussed ways to ensure “cooperation, coordination, and deconfliction between each country’s respective investigations and prosecutions,” during a ceremonial signing at the Department of Justice headquarters in Washington, according to a press release.

“The U.S.-Ukraine MOU will promote efficiency in investigations and prosecutions by, consistent with national laws, removing barriers to timely and effective exchanges of information and evidence in investigations and prosecutions by the two countries, and increasing the ease with which technical cooperation may be provided,” the press release states.

The memorandum comes two days after the Ukrainian prosecutor discussed prosecuting Russian President Vladimir Putin for genocide, telling CBS News’ Margaret Brennan that his office is communicating “all the time” with International Criminal Court Prosecutor Karim Khan, who also has authority to prosecute such a case separately.

But Kostin acknowledged during the Face the Nation interview that there is “not an easy way to prove” Putin authorized or knew of all the alleged war crimes committed under his military’s command since Russian troops began invading Ukraine on Feb. 26. He said Ukraine tracks its war crimes cases in a database and there were at least 34,000 crimes reported as of Sunday, including sex crimes and kidnappings.

“The crime of aggression is the mother of all of these crimes, of war crimes genocide, because without aggression there will be no other war crimes,” Kostin said during the interview. “And for that reason — for the crime of aggression — the highest politically and military leadership should be prosecuted and should be punished.”

Garland also met with Kostin in June in Ukraine where he announced the launch of a War Crimes Accountability Team within the DOJ. The newly-minted war crimes team followed the March creation of KleptoCapture, a task force aimed at enforcing sanctions against Russian oligarchs.

Earlier on Tuesday, KleptoCapture Director Andrew Adams testified before the Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee, telling legislators in prepared remarks that certain atrocities carried out by Russians, like the killings of hundreds of civilians found in a mass grave in eastern Ukraine last week, have been “rightly” deemed war crimes by the U.S. government.

“Identifying and prosecuting these war crimes are crucial to bringing justice to the Ukrainian people, but let’s be clear: These crimes will continue unless we can force Vladimir Putin and those around him to conclude that abandoning the invasion is better than continuing it,” he said.

The United States’ longstanding security agreements with Europe means the stakes are “sky high” there, Adams said during the hearing entitled, “Tightening the Screws on Russia: Smart Sanctions, Economic Statecraft and Next Steps.”

“And they reach as far as Asia,” he continued, “where the Chinese government is taking note of how the U.S. and its allies respond to Russia’s invasion of its smaller neighbor.”

The task force leader also announced the proposal of a new sanctions regime to implement price caps on the purchase of Russian oil that he hopes G7 country members will agree to.

“The war is not going as planned for Putin,” Adams said. “But I say this to my colleagues: Now is not the time for half-measures or complacency. It is time to crush the Kremlin’s will to continue this war.”

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan meanwhile announced over the weekend he believes Putin is ready to end the war, telling PBS News Hour host Judy Woodruff on Sunday that he had “very extensive discussions” with the Russian President at a summit in Uzbekistan last week.

"He is actually showing me that he's willing to end this as soon as possible," Erdogan said during the interview. "That was my impression, because the way things are going right now are quite problematic."

President Joe Biden said last Thursday that Ukrainians have made “significant progress,” but he thinks it is “going to be a long haul.”

The Biden administration has sent more than $15 billion in war-related aid to Ukraine since the conflict began in February.

Biden is reportedly planning to rebuke Russia over its invasion of Ukraine and encourage U.S. allies to send arms to Ukrainian forces during his speech at the 77th United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday.

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