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The U.S. says Russian actions in Ukraine are 'crimes against humanity'

Vice President Harris speaks at the Munich Security Conference in Germany on Saturday. Speaking about Russia's actions in Ukraine, she said "there is no doubt these are crimes against humanity."
Michael Probst
/
AP
Vice President Harris speaks at the Munich Security Conference in Germany on Saturday. Speaking about Russia's actions in Ukraine, she said "there is no doubt these are crimes against humanity."

Vice President Harris said Saturday that the U.S. has formally determined that the Russian military's actions in Ukraine constitute war crimes and demanded that the perpetrators be held accountable by the international community.

"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," she said at the annual Munich Security Conference in Germany.

Harris emphasized the importance of the global community standing up for Ukraine and continuing to keep pressure on Russia.

"Let us be clear, Russian forces have pursued a widespread and systemic attack against a civilian population," she said. "Gruesome acts of murder, torture, rape, and deportation. Execution-style killings, beatings, and electrocution. Russian authorities have forcibly deported hundreds of thousands of people form Ukraine to Russia — including children."

Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Saturday issued a supporting statementsaying the U.S. will work to hold those responsible to account, while emphasizing the importance of this designation. Blinken is attending the meeting.

"We reserve crimes against humanity determinations for the most egregious crimes," he said. "Today's determination underlines staggering extent of the human suffering inflicted by Moscow on the Ukrainian civilian population. This determination also reflects the deep commitment of the United States to holding members of Russia's forces and other Russian officials accountable for their atrocities against the people of Ukraine."

Last March, the Biden administration announced officials had assessedthat members of Russia's military forces have committed war crimes.

Ukraine is not a state party to treaty that established the International Criminal Court (ICC). But the country has exercised its rights to accept the court's jurisdiction over alleged war crimes occurring within its borders. On Feb. 28, 2022, shortly after Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the ICC prosecutor announcedhe would seek authorization to open an investigation into allegations of war crimes in Ukraine.

Still to come: Blinken's meeting China's top diplomat

As tension between the U.S. and China lingers, Blinken is set to meet with China's top diplomat, Wang Yi, for talks this weekend in Munich. This will be the highest level of contact between the U.S. and China since the security balloon incident.

The relationship between China and the U.S. has been fraught since the Feb. 4 shootdown of what the Biden administration maintains was a Chinese surveillance balloon that made its way across the continental U.S.

Beijing, however, insists that the balloon wasa civilian craft used for scientific research, and that shooting it down was an overreaction and a violation of international practice.

Blinken had been scheduled to visit Beijing on Feb. 5-6, but postponed the trip after the balloon made headlines.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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