State Department unable to confirm that Putin will be held accountable after declaring ‘war crimes’ by Russia

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The U.S. government on Wednesday officially declared that Russian forces have committed war crimes in Ukraine but could not confirm whether Russian President Vladimir Putin would be held accountable. We were shocked to see images of Russian forces striking civilian sites in Mariupol. This includes a maternity hospital and a museum. “The United Nations and other critical observers have confirmed hundreds upon civilian deaths and we believe that the exact civilian death count will be in the thousands,” U.S. Ambassador at Large for Global Criminal Justice Beth Van Schaack stated to reporters.

Children have sheltered underground in Ukraine amid the Russian invasion.

During the Russian invasion, children have sought refuge underground in Ukraine.
(Oleksandra Ustinova MP)

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The ambassador’s comments came just moments after Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced that the department had formally assessed that Russian forces have committed war crimes in Ukraine. The ambassador declined to comment on whether Putin, the commander in chief, of Russian forces, will be held responsible and said that it would be up to courts to decide.

“There is both international and domestic law doctrines that can reach all the way up the chain, Schaack stated. He also said that Putin’s status as a war criminal would depend on whether a court has jurisdiction. “

Blinken shared the sentiments of President Biden last week in calling Putin a war criminal. Despite Wednesday’s assessment, the State Department has yet not officially designated any person involved in the invasion of Ukraine as a war crime.

Russian President Vladimir Putin during the Valdai Discussion Club's plenary meeting on Oct. 21, 2021 in Sochi, Russia. 

Russian President Vladimir Putin during the Valdai Discussion Club’s plenary meeting on Oct. 21, 2021 in Sochi, Russia.
( Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images)

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Schaack would not detail which incidents the State Department is reviewing in coordination with its European allies, but said it would look to Russia’s actions broadly during its illegal campaign into Ukraine. The ambassador stated that the atrocities committed at Mariupol would be investigated.

” “Look at what President Putin’s forces are doing to Mariupol and to a Russian-speaking populace,” Ned Price, press secretary for State Department, told reporters. It is a city that was destroyed. The scenes of carnage, violence, and brutality are heart-wrenching. These are the very people President Putin claimed to want to protect. Putin repeatedly tried to justify his invasion in Ukraine by claiming that his forces were part of a “special army operation” to aid ethnic Russians who were allegedly oppressed by the Ukrainian government.

Ukrainian emergency employees and volunteers carry an injured pregnant woman from a maternity hospital damaged by shelling in Mariupol, Ukraine, Wednesday, March 9, 2022. The baby was born dead. Half an hour later, the mother died too. 

Ukrainian emergency employees and volunteers carry an injured pregnant woman from a maternity hospital damaged by shelling in Mariupol, Ukraine, Wednesday, March 9, 2022. The baby was dead when he was born. Half an hour later, the mother also died.
(AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)

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The State Department was pressed by reporters as to how the U.S. and the international community will hold Putin and other Russian officials accountable given Moscow’s status as a permanent member on the United Nations Security Council – which gives it veto rights.

Schaack stated that Russia will be held accountable by the International Criminal Court, third-party countries and domestic courts in Ukraine.

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