The new determination underlines the “staggering extent” of suffering inflicted on Ukrainian civilians and “also reflects the deep commitment of the United States to holding members of Russia’s forces and other Russian officials accountable for their atrocities,” he said.
Russia’s nearly yearlong invasion of Ukraine, has dominated discussions at the Munich conference, an annual gathering of security and defence officials from around the world. Harris told the assembled participants: “Let us all agree – on behalf of all the victims, both known and unknown, justice must be served.”
“Such is our moral interest,” she said. “We also have a significant strategic interest.”
“No nation is safe in a world where one country can violate the sovereignty and territorial integrity of another, where crimes against humanity are committed with impunity, where a country with imperialist ambitions can go unchecked,” Harris added.
If Russian President Vladimir Putin succeeds in attacking international rules and norms, “other nations could feel emboldened to follow his violent example,” she said. “Other authoritarian powers could seek to bend the world to their will, through coercion, disinformation and even brute force.”
Harris’ audience didn’t include any Russian officials. Conference organisers decided not to invite them this year.
Amid the Western officials defending arms supplies to Ukraine, China’s top diplomat, Wang Yi, stood out by calling for an end to the war through peace talks, saying Beijing was “deeply worried about the expansion and long-term effect of this war”.
China has refused to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine or to impose sanctions on Moscow like Western nations have done. Without naming any countries, Wang said “there may be forces” that don’t want the war to stop anytime soon.
“What they care about is not the life and death of the Ukrainian people, nor the increasing damage to Europe. They probably have bigger strategic goals than Ukraine,” he said.
Wang said Beijing planned to present a “position paper on the political settlement of the Ukraine issue” that would reiterate proposals made by President Xi Jinping.
Asked on the sidelines of the event about the US determination of crimes against humanity, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba replied that “Russia waged a genocidal war against Ukrainians because they do not recognise our identity and they do not think we deserve to exist as a sovereign nation.”
“Everything that stems from that is crimes against humanity, war crimes and various other atrocities committed by the Russian army in the territory of Ukraine,” he said. “Let lawyers sort out specifically which act belongs where in terms of legal qualification.”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky urged Western allies in a video address to the Munich conference on Friday to quicken their military support for Ukraine, declaring that “it’s speed that life depends on”.
Kuleba voiced confidence that Ukraine would eventually receive fighter jets from its partners, despite their current reluctance. He noted that they initially pushed back on providing other heavy weapons that were later delivered or promised, “so the only outstanding type of weapon is planes.”
In Munch on Friday, a Ukrainian deputy prime minister, Oleksandr Kubrakov, called for cluster munitions and phosphorous bombs, German media reported. Cluster munitions are banned by an international treaty.
Asked whether he supported calling for such weapons, Kuleba said Ukraine has evidence that Russia uses them.
“We are not party to the convention on the prohibition of cluster ammunition, so legally there are no obstacles for that,” he said. “And if we receive one, we will be using it exclusively against military forces of the Russian Federation.”
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