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Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Thursday said Russia’s attacks in Ukraine amount to “war crimes” and said there will be accountability “one way or another.”
“Yesterday, President Biden said that, in his opinion, war crimes have been committed in Ukraine. Personally, I agree,” Blinken told reporters. “Intentionally targeting civilians is a war crime.”
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The Senate this week approved a resolution that will investigate Russian President Vladimir Putin for war crimes, and Blinken said US findings will be used to help international efforts to hold the Kremlin accountable.
Blinken wouldn’t comment on how Putin’s deadly invasion in Ukraine will affect US-Russian relations down the road but said, “Our focus is on ending this war.”
“I don’t want to speculate about the future, but there’s going to be, one way or another, accountability for this war of aggression,” he added.
The secretary’s comments came as Russian forces continue to bomb cities and towns across Ukraine, targeting not only military sites but civilian shelters.
Since the onslaught of the war three weeks ago, Russian forces have hit apartment buildings, children’s and maternity hospitals, bread lines and most recently a theater in the besieged city of Mariupol that was sheltering roughly 1,000 men, women and children.
“The word ‘children’ had been written in Russian, in giant white letters, on the pavement outside the building so that you could know from the air that there were children inside,” Blinken said. “[Russians] stepped up their bombardment with the goal of breaking the will of the people. “
But the secretary argued that despite the humanitarian catastrophe that has resulted from Russia’s illegal war, Putin’s “invasion of Ukraine is not going to plan.”
“They haven’t submitted. On the contrary, they’re fighting with extraordinary courage to protect their homes, their families, their country,” he added.
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Blinken on Thursday reiterated concerns by security officials that Russia is planning on using chemical weapons and will then falsely blame the internationally banned substance on the Ukrainian government.
The move would set the stage for Russia to increase its already brutal tactics.
“We believe Russia will bring its mercenaries from private military groups and foreign countries to Ukraine,” Blinken said. “President Putin acknowledged as much over the weekend when he authorized the recruitment of additional forces from the Middle East and elsewhere – another indication that his war effort is not going as he hoped it would.”
The secretary warned that Russia will likely continue to abduct mayors and local officials in order to replace them with “puppets,” a concern security officials have repeatedly warned could happen to the democratically elected government in Kyiv.
The US believes Putin will seek to instate Russian officials in local offices to make Ukraine economically dependent on Russia, as he did following the 2008 invasion of Georgia.
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When pressed by reporters on how the international community and the US will hold Putin accountable, given his previous offenses and lack of serious international response, Blinken said, “I think we’ve demonstrated that we’ve been good to our word.”
“When we said that there would be sustained, powerful support for Ukraine in its efforts to defend itself, we demonstrated that we’re good at our word,” the secretary added. “So when I tell you that there will be accountability and consequences for any more crimes that have been committed, I hope you’ll take my word for it.”