US assesses Russian forces have committed war crimes in Ukraine

Secretary of State Antony Blinken says assessment made on 'careful review' of intelligence sources

Shelled buildings in central Kharkiv, Ukraine. EPA
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US President Joe Biden's administration said on Wednesday that Russian troops have committed war crimes in Ukraine and that it will co-ordinate with other nations to hold Moscow accountable.

The assessment was based on intelligence gathering and a “careful review” of sources on Russia’s attacks.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken made the announcement nearly a month after Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24.

“Russia’s forces have destroyed apartment buildings, schools, hospitals, critical infrastructure, civilian vehicles, shopping centres and ambulances, leaving thousands of innocent civilians killed or wounded,” he said.

The US assessment makes specific mention of attacks on civilian infrastructure in the city of Mariupol, including an attack on a maternity hospital and a theatre sheltering civilians.

Mr Blinken added that the US would share information with allies, partners and international institutions that have the task of investigating reported war crimes and crimes against humanity.

“We are committed to pursuing accountability using every tool available, including criminal prosecutions,” said Mr Blinken, who is currently accompanying Mr Biden on a trip to Europe.

This month, the White House said Washington was collecting evidence of possible war crimes, human rights abuses and breaches of international law committed by Russia.

The International Criminal Court’s chief prosecutor Karim Khan also opened an investigation this month into Russia’s conduct in Ukraine.

“I am satisfied that there is a reasonable basis to believe that both alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity have been committed in Ukraine in relation to the events already assessed during the preliminary examination by the Office,” Mr Khan said.

Both the US and Russia are signatories to the Rome Statute of 1998 that created the International Criminal Court, but neither country is a member.

Updated: March 23, 2022, 11:37 PM