In the latest Western effort to pile more pressure on Russia over its invasion of Ukraine and hold it accountable for its wartime atrocities, US Vice President Kamala Harris announced on Saturday that Washington has formally determined that Moscow is committing crimes against humanity in Ukraine.
In her forceful statement delivered at the Munich Security Conference, the world’s largest security gathering, Harris accused Moscow – conveying the Biden administration’s stand – of a widespread and systematic attack against Ukraine’s civilian population, referencing the barbaric and inhumane sexual assault of a four-year-old girl by a Russian soldier.
In addition, Harris cited evidence of execution-style killings, rape, torture, and forceful deportations, stressing that Russian troops’ actions are an assault on common human values and common humanity.
She noted that as the US administration formally concluded in March, Russia has not only committed war crimes, but also illegal acts against non-combatants, referencing images of bodies lying in Bucha’s and Borodyanka’s streets as well as other Russian war crimes documented early on in the war.
Although not officially codified in an international treaty, crimes against humanity are seen as a more serious offense in international law and are still adjudicated in the International Criminal Court (ICC), which the United States is not a member of.
An UN-mandated investigation by the Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine had already concluded that Moscow’s forces were guilty of war crimes but has not yet concluded that the war crimes it identified amounted to crimes against humanity.
The Biden administration, on the other hand, believes that Moscow’s actions have met a broader standard than war crimes and Harris pointed out that Washington will continue to assist Kyiv in its investigation into these alleged crimes, stressing that justice must be served.
Although the vast majority of accusations documented by international bodies – such as the United Nations – are of alleged atrocities committed by Russians and their proxies, there have also been some reports of Ukrainians mistreating Russian prisoners.