(Munich) US Vice President Kamala Harris has accused Russia for the first time of ‘crimes against humanity’ since its invasion of Ukraine began nearly a year ago. year, warning that those responsible will have to “account for it”.
Speaking at the Munich Security Conference, Mr.me Harris, a former prosecutor, gave a chilling enumeration of abuses attributed to Moscow, citing systematic bombings targeting civilians and critical infrastructure, torture and rape attributed to Russian soldiers, deportations of Ukrainians to Russia, including thousands of children separated from their families.
“We have looked at the evidence, we know the legal standards and there is no doubt: these are crimes against humanity,” she said.
Since the start of the invasion, the United States has documented or cataloged more than 30,600 cases of war crimes committed by Russian forces in Ukraine, the US State Department said.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kouleba praised the American position and again accused Moscow of “genocidal war” in Ukraine, during a press conference on the sidelines of the Conference.
However, he said he feared that it would not be possible to gather enough evidence to prosecute “specific individuals” who had committed “atrocities”.
Kyiv has called for a special court to be set up to try Russia’s top officials, but its exact form raises complex legal questions.
Risks that “Putin wins”
Gathered in Munich on the sidelines of the Conference, the heads of diplomacy of the great powers of the G7 reaffirmed in a parallel statement their “unshakable solidarity with Ukraine for as long as necessary” almost a year after the launch of the invasion. Russian on February 24, 2022.
Earlier, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg warned of a defeat for Ukraine, as Russia is mobilizing “hundreds of thousands of troops”.
“The biggest risk of all is that Putin wins. If Putin wins in Ukraine, the message for him and other authoritarian leaders will be that they can use force to get what they want,” he warned.
No signs of easing are in sight in the conflict which has seen Russian troops seize almost a fifth of Ukrainian territory and claimed tens of thousands of victims on both sides.
On Saturday, the Russian army claimed the rare capture of a locality in the Kharkiv region, in northeastern Ukraine, where its troops have gone on the offensive for a few weeks, in parallel with its offensives around of Bakhmout and Vougledar.
The general feeling on the Allied and Ukrainian side is that the war is likely to be prolonged, as French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz had already estimated on Friday during the first day of the Conference which is due to end on Sunday.
This is why it is essential to “redouble our efforts” in military support to Kyiv by speeding up the production of standard armaments, such as ammunition, which Kyiv “desperately needs”, said Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.
EU members are currently exploring ways to make joint ammunition purchases for Ukraine, according to diplomatic sources in Brussels.
The allies support the Ukrainians through financial, humanitarian and military aid, including heavy Western-made tanks even if they are slow to arrive on the ground, and through drastic economic sanctions against Russia.
The Europeans also hope to convince China, which remains a close ally of Moscow, to use its influence on the master of the Kremlin to end the war.
Beijing, currently at odds with Washington over a spy balloon affair, must “play a responsible role” in the current situation, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said.
But the head of Chinese diplomacy Wang Yi presented his country as a champion of “peace” and repeated in Munich that it was up to Moscow and Kyiv to “sit around the table and find” a “political” solution. to the conflict.
For Mr. Kouleba, whatever plans may “appear in different corners of the world”, Ukraine is focused on one thing: defending its territorial sovereignty. “Even though we are dead tired, we cannot afford to be tired of fighting for freedom,” he said.
On Saturday, hundreds of people demonstrated in the streets of Munich, some to support Ukraine, others on the contrary to express their disagreement with the delivery of arms to the country.