April 22, 2024

The US government has determined that Russia has committed crimes against humanity during its war in Ukraine, Vice President Kamala Harris announced Saturday in Germany.

“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 in a speech at the Munich Security Conference. She added, “To all those who have perpetrated these crimes, and to their superiors who are complicit in those crimes, you will be held to account.”

The declaration marks the strongest accusation yet from the US as it seeks to punish Moscow for its invasion of Ukraine. The US government declared last March that members of the Russian armed forces had committed war crimes in Ukraine. President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken have said it was their personal opinion that war crimes have taken place and Biden has gone as far as saying that atrocities at the hands of Moscow’s troops qualify as “genocide.”

While the latest “crimes against humanity” determination is significant, it remains largely symbolic for now. It does not immediately trigger any specific consequences, nor does it give the US the ability to prosecute the Russians involved with perpetrating crimes against humanity. However, it could provide international bodies such as the International Criminal Court, which work to hold perpetrators accountable, with evidence to effectively try to prosecute those crimes.

Laying out the evidence

Harris’ announcement Saturday comes days before the one-year anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The vice president is in Germany as a part of the Biden administration’s efforts to show commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty and unity among Western allies who have provided billions in aid, funding and weapons to combat Russia’s aggression. Biden is scheduled to visit Poland on Monday.

Harris said Saturday that as a former prosecutor who began “as young lawyer in the court room and later running California’s Department of Justice,” she knew “firsthand the importance of gathering facts and holding them up against the law.”

Source: By , CNN

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