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The US government officially declares that Russian military forces, led by President Vladimir Putin, committed war crimes in Ukraine by striking civilian targets, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Wednesday.
The attacks on Ukraine have been going on for almost a month and have caused nearly 5,000 civilian casualties, the statement said. Russian troops have targeted areas with civilians, including apartment buildings, schools and hospitals.
“Last week, I echoed President Biden’s statement, based on the countless stories and images of destruction and suffering that we have all seen, that war crimes had been committed by Putin’s forces in Ukraine,” Blinken said in a statement.
“Today I can announce that, based on information currently available, the US government believes that members of Russian forces have committed war crimes in Ukraine,” Blinken added.
A week ago, journalists asked President Biden if he was prepared to call Russian President Putin a war criminal.
“I think he’s a war criminal,” Biden said.
On Wednesday, Blinken specifically mentioned Russia’s recent attacks on a maternity ward and theater in Mariupol that were specifically marked with the Russian word for children, written in large letters visible from the sky.
“Putin’s forces used these same tactics in Grozny, Chechnya, and Aleppo, Syria, where they intensified their bombardment of cities to break the will of the people,” Blinken said.
He added that a competent court is the only way to determine guilt. But the US government will continue to follow up on reports of war crimes and is “committed to pursuing accountability”, he said.