(The Hill) – Vice President Kamala Harris said the United States has formally determined that Russia has committed crimes against humanity during its war in Ukraine, vowing that it will be held accountable for its actions.
Harris said during a speech at the annual Munich Security Conference on Saturday that the world has witnessed Russian forces engaged in “horrendous atrocities and war crimes.” She said Russian soldiers have conducted a widespread attack against Ukrainian civilians, which has included “gruesome acts” of murder, torture, rape and deportation.
“The United States has formally determined that Russia has committed crimes against humanity, and I say to all those who have perpetrated these crimes, and to their superiors, who are complicit in these crimes, you will be held to account,” Harris said.
The United Nations defines a crime against humanity as one or more of several acts that are part of a widespread or systematic attack on a civilian population with prior knowledge of the attack. The acts include: murder, extermination, enslavement, deportation, imprisonment, torture, rape (and other forms of sexual violence), enforced disappearance, and apartheid.
Atrocities committed by Russian soldiers have been documented since the start of the war nearly a year ago, with accounts of their actions coming shortly after the full-scale invasion of Ukraine began.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken said last March, about one month into the war, that the U.S. had formally determined Russia was committing war crimes in Ukraine.
Harris said Russian officials have forcibly deported hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians, including children, from captured territory to Russia and separated children from their families. She said execution-style killings, beatings and electrocutions have also been observed.
She noted examples: a pregnant woman who was killed after a Russian strike hit a maternity hospital where she was staying; civilians being “shot in cold blood” in the city of Bucha; and a 4-year-old girl being sexually assaulted by a Russian soldier.
Harris said the U.S. knows the legal standards and the evidence, and can say that Russia’s actions are crimes against humanity.
Harris said the world should “renew” its commitment to accountability and the rule of law. She added that the U.S. will continue to support the judicial system in Ukraine and international investigations.
“Let us all agree on behalf of all the victims, both known and unknown, justice must be served,” she said.