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Kamala Harris: 'Russia has committed crimes against humanity'

"Justice must be served," Harris said.

February 19, 2023 8:56am

Updated: February 19, 2023 4:12pm

Vice President Kamala Harris said the United States has determined that Russia has committed crimes against humanity during its invasion of Ukraine and she pledged to hold the perpetrators accountable. 

"We have examined the evidence. We know the legal standards. And there is no doubt these are crimes against humanity," Harris said Saturday at the Munich Security Conference. "The United States has formally determined that Russia has committed crimes against humanity."

President Joe Biden had called Russian President Vladimir Putin a "war criminal" last March and the following month he called for the Russian leader to be put on trial for war crimes.

While war crimes must occur during armed conflict and prosecution is focused on specific individuals, the International Criminal Court defines crimes against humanity as "acts when committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population, with knowledge of the attack." 

Harris said: "Russian forces have pursued a widespread and systemic attack against a civilian population — gruesome acts of murder, torture, rape, and deportation. Execution-style killings, beatings, and electrocution." 

She also said that Russian officials have forcibly deported hundreds of thousands of people from Ukraine to Russia and separated children from families. 

"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. 

She pledged to support Ukraine's judicial process as well as international investigations. "Justice must be served," she said.

The same day as Harris' speech, Secretary of State Antony Blinken issued a statement determining that Russian officials have committed crimes against humanity during the invasion of Ukraine, which started nearly one year ago.

Anatoly Antonov, Russia's ambassador to the U.S., defended his country on Sunday after Harris' remarks.

"We consider such insinuations as an attempt, unprecedented in terms of its cynicism, to demonize Russia in the course of a hybrid war, unleashed against us," he said, according to Russia-funded outlet RT.

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