Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said Thursday that he personally believes war crimes have been committed in Ukraine, the first time since President Joe Biden called Russian President Vladimir Putin a “war criminal.”
“Yesterday, President Biden said that, according to him, war crimes have been committed in Ukraine. Personally, I agree,” said Blinken. “Deliberately targeting civilians is a war crime. After all the destruction of the last few weeks, I find it difficult to conclude that the Russians are doing otherwise.”
Before the United States formally identified Putin’s actions as war crimes, Blinken said State Department experts from the Office of Global Criminal Justice were documenting and evaluating evidence for a formal resolution and would share those findings with those responsible. However he acknowledged that their numbers were not enough to defeat Obama’s government.
“These incidents add to a long list of attacks on civilian non-military locations across Ukraine, including apartment buildings, public squares and, last week, a maternity hospital in Mariupol,” he said. “I doubt that any of us who have seen these pictures will ever forget.”
“There must be accountability in one way or another for this war of aggression,” he said of Putin.
But he warned of further darkness – Russia is reclaiming genocide, using chemical or biological weapons and blaming Ukraine, sending its “mercenaries” to join the war, and systematically abducting and replacing Ukrainian officials with puppets. Which he called a “terrorist tactic.”
While Ukrainian officials were engaged in talks with the Russian opposition, Blinken expressed frustration with the talks – saying they saw no “meaningful effort” by Russia to end the war through diplomacy. If anything, he warned, Putin indicated in his remarks on Wednesday that he was doubling down.
Shortly before Blinken spoke, a State Department official confirmed to ABC News that a U.S. citizen had been killed in Ukraine on Thursday when Chernihiv regional police said an American had been killed in Russian shelling there. Two American journalists, a filmmaker and a Fox News cameraman were killed while covering the war this week.
With thousands fleeing the violence, Biden announced Wednesday that the United States would provide অতিরিক্ত 800 million in additional security assistance to Ukraine, bringing the total to $ 1 billion last week. But the central request of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky – a no-fly zone over Ukraine – was not granted. However, he proposed an alternative to Congress on Wednesday: the S-300s, a Soviet-era missile system designed to defend against Russian aggression.
At its request, NATO ally Slovakia said it was “willing” to provide a replacement – until NATO would fill the gap created in Slovakia by providing its only air defense system.
“When we decide to give it to the Ukrainians, what happens immediately is that we actually create a security gap in NATO,” Slovak Defense Minister Jaroslav Nad told a joint news conference with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin in Bratislava on Thursday. “If there is a situation where we have a proper replacement or we have a certainty for a certain period of time, then we are willing to discuss the future of the S-300 system.”
It is unknown at this time what he will do after leaving the post. The three NATO countries that have S-300s are Slovakia, Bulgaria and Greece.
The United States has reiterated that it will not support a no-fly zone, and despite Zelensky’s request, Austin has explained the decision and called on Putin to stop attacking Ukrainian civilians.
“Implementing a no-fly zone means you’re at war. You’re fighting Russia,” Austin said. “So, from a US perspective, we have, again, our position that we are not going to make one,” he added.
Asked directly whether Russia’s attacks on civilians in Ukraine were war crimes, Austin did not go as far as Biden and Blinken, saying the State Department was currently reviewing reports of civilian attacks.
“If you intentionally attack civilians, intentionally target civilians, it’s not – it’s a crime,” Austin said. “So, these actions are being reviewed by our State Department, and of course, there will be and will be a process to review all of these.”
Amid concerns that China could help Russia with military equipment, Biden is scheduled to hold talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Friday. He will attend a demonstration of solidarity with NATO leaders in Brussels next week.
Earlier in the day, Biden welcomed Michael Martin, an Irish Taoist, to a virtual bilateral meeting at the Oval Office, and said that as Russia’s war in Ukraine continues, leaders are “meeting at a time when demands for world unity are really accelerating.”
“We have to be united and we must be,” Biden said. “But Putin’s brutality and what he is doing and what his troops are doing in Ukraine is inhumane.”
Echoing Biden’s views on Putin’s “irrational and immoral war,” Taoisach said, “I share with you our horror at the barbaric attacks on civilians, and through them Biden’s leadership has become” strong, “determined and” strong. ” . “
“The United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom, Canada and other like-minded democracies are coming together to respond to this barbaric attack on women, especially the children of Ukraine.”
Luis Martinez of ABC News contributed to this report.