State Department Rightfully and Finally Accuses Russia of Crimes Against Humanity in Ukraine

Yuri Kochetkov/Pool Photo via AP

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Vice President Kamala Harris used her speech at Saturday’s session of the Munich Security Conference to declare Russia guilty of “crimes against humanity.”


First, from the starting days of this unprovoked war, we have witnessed Russian forces engage in horrendous atrocities and war crimes. Their actions are an assault on our common values, an attack on our common humanity.

And let us be clear: 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.

Russian authorities have forcibly deported hundreds of thousands of people from Ukraine to Russia, including children. They have cruelly separated children from their families.

And we’ve all seen the images of the theater in Mariupol, where hundreds of people were killed.

Think of the image of the pregnant mother who was killed following a strike at a maternity hospital, where she was preparing to give birth.

Think of the images of Bucha.  Civilians shot in cold blood.  Their bodies left in the street. The jarring photograph of the man who was riding his bike.

Think of the four-year-old girl who the United Nations recently reported was sexually assaulted by a Russian soldier. A four-year-old child.

Barbaric and inhumane.

Long before I was Vice President of the United States, I spent the majority of my career as a prosecutor, beginning as a young lawyer in the courtroom and later running the California Department of Justice. I know firsthand the importance of gathering facts and holding them up against the law.

In the case of Russia’s actions in Ukraine, we have examined the evidence. We know the legal standards. And there is no doubt these are crimes against humanity.  (Applause.)

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.

The US has officially charged that Russia has committed crimes against humanity in Ukraine.


Somehow, she avoided cackling while enumerating Russian atrocities.

Were it just Harris saying this, I’d ignore it like sane and rational people do with anything she says. But this is not an off-the-cuff remark. Secretary of State Antony (“t” not “th”) Blinken announced that the charge of crimes against humanity was an allegation leveled by the US government.

While Harris focused on the documented war crimes committed by the members of the Russian Army, that misses the point.

War crimes happen even when the war is just. The US Army carried out at least three documented massacres of German and Italian prisoners in Sicily. That doesn’t detract from the righteousness of that war. What makes this action significant is that unlike war crimes, which are individual offenses, crimes against humanity, by definition, are part of national policy and occur “when committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population.” It is also significant that this charge is rooted in the Nuremberg Trials charging documents.


This definition is met in several ways. First, Russia attacks Ukrainian cities, which lie within artillery and missile range of the Russian border daily. The attacks are not aimed at military targets; in fact, many of the cities targeted have neither military installations nor Ukrainian troop concentrations.

For months, the Russian military has been targeting Ukrainian energy infrastructure as well as random buildings unassociated with the military. Many of these attacks are launched by Russian Navy surface combatants and submarines in the Black Sea and by Russian Air Force strategic bombers based in the Russian Far East. These attacks are designed, or so Russian media says, to break the will of the Ukrainian civilian population and, because they require two military services to act in coordination, have must approval at the highest levels of government (see Putin’s War, Week 38. The Lines Clarify and Everyone Is Getting Ready for the Next Phase).


I’ve posted on the systematic deportation of Ukrainian civilians ((Putin’s War, Week 47. Gerasimov Shakes Up the Russian Army and the Russian Spring Offensive Looms)), the separation of Ukrainian children from their parents at “filtration camps,” and the forced adoption of those Ukrainian children (Putin’s War, Week 51. Russia’s Slow-Mo Offensive Gets Underway).

There is a long-standing claim that the Russians are using rape as a weapon in Ukraine, just like they did in East Prussia during World War II. Looting is so widespread that it seems to be Russian Army policy.

I don’t know what evidence Blinken is relying on, but open-source intelligence provides substantial evidence that the Russian government, including all branches of the Russian military, is carrying out a war on the Ukrainian people, and it intends to extinguish Ukrainian identity.

Not that this is surprising. If you take a look at any history of the Soviet occupation of Poland after the joint invasion with Nazi Germany in 1939, such as the deportations and the attempts to eradicate that country, you’ll find remarkable parallels with the Russian invasion of Ukraine. In fact, Stalin’s refusal to acknowledge Poland as a country (he called it the “bastard of Versailles”) is the same sort of language used by Putin. Should Ukraine succeed in liberating Luhansk and Donetsk, they will inevitably find a Ukrainian equivalent of the massacres in the Katyn Forest.


This designation does two things. First, it makes the negotiated peace so beloved by Tucker Carlson’s guests, where Russia takes what it wants, very difficult because the resolution of this charge will have to be part of any deal. The decision to label Russia’s operations as crimes against humanity requires that those officials responsible for planning and executing them be brought to justice. It is hard to see how Vladimir Putin, his foreign minister Sergey Lavrov, his defense minister Sergei Shoigu, and the chief of the general staff Valery Gerasimov can escape culpability. This official announcement has “burned the boats,” so to speak, and guaranteed a prolonged conflict…or a coup.

Second, this stench will stick to Russia for years and severely hinder its ability to rejoin the civilized world if, indeed, Russia has ever been a member. Members of the Russian military and government will be afraid to travel to most places in Europe because, just like members of the Waffen SS, they are members of a criminal organization.

Don’t misunderstand me. I think the call was the right call. I’m just astonished the Biden State Department had the stones to drop the hammer.


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