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Wednesday, June 12, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

US formally accuses Russian forces of war crimes in Ukraine

As President Joe Biden heads to Europe to talk with allies, his administration says Russia has committed war crimes by intentionally attacking Ukrainian civilians.

WASHINGTON (CN) — As civilian deaths continue to tally up, the Biden administration formally declared Wednesday that Russia’s military forces have committed war crimes one month into the country’s brutal invasion of Ukraine.

“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,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement Wednesday on the determination. “Many of the sites Russia’s forces have hit have been clearly identifiable as in-use by civilians.”

Blinken noted that as of Tuesday, officials in Ukraine’s southern port city of Mariupol had estimated that roughly 2,400 of its civilians had been killed and that “every day that Russia’s forces continue their brutal attacks, the number of innocent civilians killed and wounded, including women and children, climbs.”

It was in Mariupol last week that a theater where hundreds of civilians were sheltering in underground chambers and basements was allegedly deliberately struck by a Russian warplane although it was clearly marked with a sign meant to be seen from the sky saying children were inside. A Mariupol maternity hospital was also targeted by Russians, Blinken said, calling out Russian President Vladimir Putin for the brutal attacks.

"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," Blinken said. "Their attempt to do so in Ukraine has again shocked the world and, as President [Volodymyr] Zelenskyy has soberly attested, 'bathed the people of Ukraine in blood and tears.'”

Blinken’s announcement comes as President Joe Biden heads to Brussels for meetings with United Nation allies amid the raging war, which has heightened tensions between Russia and the West. Last week, Biden called Putin a "war criminal" for attacking civilians.

After 28 days of war, many cities, towns and villages in Ukraine have been turned into apocalyptic landscapes of bombed buildings, rubble-strewn streets, torched and abandoned tanks and transport vehicles, stunned and wounded civilians and death.

Russia is making slow gains in eastern and southern Ukraine. It resumed heavy bombing of the country’s capital city Kyiv on Wednesday as fierce fighting was reported there.

Biden will hold a NATO summit on Thursday and then make a trip to Warsaw, bringing him close to the war zone. Meanwhile NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has said he plans to deploy four more battle groups into the war zone.

While the United Nations has officially confirmed more than 2,500 civilian deaths, the toll is likely much higher.

The United States has estimated that up to 7,000 Russian soldiers may have been killed so far, but that number cannot be verified. The number of Ukrainian military deaths is unknown, though Russia has inflicted heavy losses.

Blinken said Wednesday that the U.S. will use all means available to stop Russia’s deliberate civilian attacks, including criminal prosecutions.

“As with any alleged crime, a court of law with jurisdiction over the crime is ultimately responsible for determining criminal guilt in specific cases," he said.

Biden's presence in Europe likely will help steer events in Ukraine and set the tone for the West's response to the catastrophe taking place. Upon leaving for Brussels, Biden again accused Russia of being so brutal as to consider unleashing chemical weapons in Ukraine. Russia has scoffed at the allegation and alleged the U.S. was funding bioweapons laboratories in Ukraine.

The West is expected to announce new sanctions against Russia and its oligarchs and top officials soon.

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Categories / Government, International, Politics

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