US supporting international probes into possible war crimes committed by Russia, State Department says

The US State Department is supporting international probes into potential war crimes and atrocities committed by Russia in Ukraine and is “committed to pursuing accountability for such acts using every tool available, including criminal prosecutions where appropriate,” a State Department spokesperson said.

According to the spokesperson, the State Department is “supporting Ukraine’s authorities, who are already working to document potential atrocity crimes for prosecution,” as well as the “the important work of human rights documenters in Ukraine.”

It is also supporting the UN Commission of Inquiry to investigate possible human rights violations by Russia and the OSCE expert mission invoked by the US and 44 other nations last week using the Moscow Mechanism. 

The Moscow Mechanism is used to establish short-term fact-finding missions on human rights concerns. It is a serious step, and according to the OSCE, it has been triggered only nine other times since its establishment in 1991. It was most recently used in 2020 to investigate human rights abuses in Belarus.

During a hearing Tuesday, the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency said he did not believe the US had yet seen direct evidence that Moscow has committed war crimes in Ukraine.

“I don’t know that we have direct evidence besides what we see on social media. Certainly the bombing of schools and facilities that are not associated with the Ukrainian military would indicate to me that he’s stepping up right to the line if he hasn’t done so already,” Lt. Gen. Scott Berrier said.

In an interview on CNN’s State of the Union Sunday, Secretary of State Tony Blinken has “seen very credible reports of deliberate attacks on civilians, which would constitute a war crime.” 

“We’ve seen very credible reports about the use of certain weapons. And what we’re doing right now is documenting all of this, putting it all together, looking at it, and making sure that as people and the appropriate organizations and institutions investigate whether war crimes have been or are being committed, that we can support whatever they’re doing,” Blinken said. “So right now we’re looking at these reports. They’re very credible. And we’re documenting everything.”

Last week, US Embassy Kyiv tweeted that “it is a war crime to attack a nuclear power plant. Putin’s shelling of Europe’s largest nuclear plant takes his reign of terror one step further. #TheHague #Zaporizhzhia #StandwithUkraine.” However, embassies in Europe were told by the State Department not to retweet that tweet.

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