Ahead of the one-year anniversary of Vladimir Putin’s globally unpopular (and fully unilateral) decision to invade Ukraine, the Biden administration has formally concluded that Russia is guilty of committing crimes against humanity during the violent conflict.
Under the Biden administration, the use of the term “crimes against humanity” suggests legal findings that “violent acts from murder to rape are widespread, systematic, and intentionally directed against civilians.”
Vice President Kamala Harris spoke at the Munich Security Conference just five days before the somber anniversary and told the assembly that “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.”
The Vice President vowed in her prepared remarks that the Russians should expect accountability from their enemies.
“I say to all those who have perpetrated these crimes, and to their superiors who are complicit in those crimes – you will be held to account,” VP Harris warned.
VP Harris also said that while Russia had been “weakened” by the war, the “transatlantic alliance is stronger than ever,” she stressed. “And most importantly, the spirit of the Ukrainian people endures.”
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken backed up the Vice President’s statements, explaining that members of Russia’s forces had “committed execution-style killings of Ukrainian men, women, and children; torture of civilians in detention through beatings, electrocution, and mock executions; rape; and, alongside other Russian officials, have deported hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian civilians to Russia, including children who have been forcibly separated from their families”.
Also appearing at the Munich Security Conference — which was convened to tackle the issue of Europe’s deadliest military conflict since World War II — was the new UK prime minister, Rishi Sunak, who told the conference that holding Russia to account for its actions would be a part of “winning the peace”.
“We must see justice through the [international criminal court] for their sickening war crimes committed, whether in Bucha, Irpin, Mariupol or beyond,” Sunak said, adding that the “treaties and agreements of the post-cold war era have failed Ukraine”.
The White House is said to be prepared to support any prosecutions or investigations as may be mandated by the United Nations.
Thus far, the UN’s Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine has not yet concluded that the war crimes it says it has identified amount to “crimes against humanity.”
You can watch the Vice President’s speech at the Munich Conference, below.
Follow Tara Dublin on Twitter @taradublinrocks.