The US government has officially declared that Russia committed crimes against humanity during its war in Ukraine, Vice President Kamala Harris announced in Germany on Saturday.
“The United States has formally determined that Russia has committed crimes against humanity,” Harris said during a high-profile speech at the Munich Security Conference.
“And 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.”
Harris laid bare some of what could be used as evidence of Russia’s alleged crimes against humanity. She outlined specific instances that have peppered news clips and official reports from the United Nations.
“First, from the starting days of this unprovoked war, we have witnessed Russian forces engage in horrendous atrocities and war crimes,” the vice president said.
“Russian forces have pursued a widespread and systemic attack against a civilian population -- gruesome acts of murder, torture, rape, and deportation. Execution-style killings, beating, and electrocution,” she added. “Russian authorities, have forcibly deported hundreds of thousands of people, from Ukraine to Russia, including children. They have cruelly separated children from their families.”
Harris's speech cited evidence of indiscriminate attacks that deliberately targeted civilians including the bombing of a maternity hospital that killed a pregnant mother and a theater in Mariupol where hundreds were killed. The vice president spoke of the horrific images out of Bucha that showed men and women shot and left to rot in the streets and reports by the United Nations of a four-year-old girl who was sexually assaulted by a Russian soldier.
“Barbaric and inhumane,” Harris said.
As it was when the US government declared Russia committed war crimes last March, it still remains to be seen whether there will be any accountability for those accused of carrying out the alleged crimes, and whether Russian President Vladimir Putin himself will be forced to bear any responsibility.
Still, Harris vowed that the US would “continue to support the judicial process.”
Some context: The latest proclamation comes after the US government announced that members of the Russian armed forces 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 atrocities at the hands of Moscow’s troops qualify as “genocide.”
The decision to announce the official findings comes days before the anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Harris is in Germany as a part of the Biden administration’s intense 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. President Biden is scheduled to visit Poland on Monday.