US attorney general pledges to assist Ukraine in prosecuting war crimes

Kyiv claims it has identified thousands of war crimes months into invasion

US Attorney General Merrick Garland and Ukrainian Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova, meet at the Polish border on Tuesday. AP
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US Attorney General Merrick Garland pledged during a surprise visit to Ukraine on Tuesday to help Ukrainian authorities prosecute war crimes committed during the Russian invasion.

“I'm here to express the unwavering support of the United States for the people of Ukraine in the midst of the unprovoked and unjust Russian invasion,” Mr Garland said after meeting Ukraine's Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova at Krakovets on the Polish-Ukrainian border.

Mr Garland announced the launch of a War Crimes Accountability Team led by Eli Rosenbaum, a 36-year veteran of the Justice Department who previously led US efforts to identify and deport Nazi war criminals.

“America — and the world — has seen the many horrific images and read the heart-wrenching accounts of brutality and death that have resulted from Russia's unjust invasion of Ukraine,” Mr Garland said.

“There is no hiding place for war criminals. The US Justice Department will pursue every avenue of accountability for those who commit war crimes and other atrocities in Ukraine.”

Ms Venediktova thanked Mr Garland for his support, calling it “very important”.

“We all understand that we have huge enemies,” she said.

Mr Garland is stopping in Ukraine on his way to a US-EU justice and home affairs ministerial meeting this week in Paris.

Nearly four months after Russia invaded Ukraine, Kyiv says it has identified thousands of suspected war crimes.

Most notorious have been the allegations of the murder of scores of civilians in Bucha, right outside the Ukrainian capital.

US President Joe Biden has denounced the killing of Ukrainian civilians in Bucha as “war crimes”.

“Civilians executed in cold blood, bodies dumped into mass graves, the sense of brutality and inhumanity left for all the world to see, unapologetically,” Mr Biden said in April.

“There's nothing less happening than major war crimes.

“Responsible nations have to come together to hold these perpetrators accountable.”

The US State Department announced the creation of a new unit in May to research, document and publicise war crimes reportedly committed by Russia in Ukraine.

Updated: June 21, 2022, 10:56 PM