The White House said Friday there were “strong indications” that Russia was committing war crimes in Ukraine, stopping short of a statement, which legally requires an investigation before such an assessment can be made.
“We have all seen the devastating images coming out of Ukraine and are appalled by Russia’s brutal tactics. Pregnant women on stretchers, buildings bombed, families killed as they sought shelter from this terrible violence. We are also seeing reports of other types of potential abuse, including sexual and gender-based violence,” White House Deputy Press Secretary Andrew Bates told reporters aboard Air Force One.
Bates continued: “Those are disgusting attacks. Civilian casualties increase. If Russia intentionally targets civilians, it would be a war crime. And as we all see on live television, the evidence is piling up and we are documenting it as it unfolds. There are strong indications that this is happening and that the heinous way in which Russia is pursuing this war will lead to war crimes.
The United States, he added, supports human rights activists, civil society and independent media who document, collect and expose evidence of possible war crimes, human rights violations rights and violations of international humanitarian law.
The United States will share this evidence with allies and partners and “support accountability” with all available tools, “including prosecution where appropriate,” Bates said.
US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield has become the highest ranking US official to declare that Russia’s actions against the Ukrainian people constitute war crimes, telling the BBC on Thursday: ” They are war crimes; there are attacks on civilians that cannot be justified by any — in any way.
Bates also said US President Joe Biden’s warning to Russia about any potential use of chemical weapons was “unmistakable”.
“You clearly heard from the president that if Russia uses chemical weapons, there will be serious consequences,” Bates said. “I have nothing to predict on that front, but its significance was unequivocal.”
Bates also pointed to recent warnings from US officials, including press secretary Jen Psaki, that Russia could use chemical weapons in a false flag operation to justify further violence.
“The truth is that Russia is the only issue in the equation with a chemical and biological weapons program in violation of international law,” Bates said.