WARSAW, Poland (AP) — US Vice President Kamala Harris on Thursday embraced calls for an international war crimes investigation of Russia over its invasion of Ukraine, citing the “atrocities” of bombing civilians, including a maternity hospital.
Watch Harris speak in the player above.
Speaking alongside Polish President Andrzej Duda at a press conference in Warsaw, where she is demonstrating US support for NATO’s eastern flank allies, Harris expressed outrage over the bombing Wednesday of the maternity hospital and scenes of bloodied pregnant women being evacuated, as well as other attacks on civilians. She stopped short of directly accusing Russia of having committed war crimes.
“Absolutely there should be an investigation, and we should all be watching,” said Harris, noting that the United Nations has already started a process to review allegations. “I have no question the eyes of the world are on this war and what Russia has done in terms of this aggression and these atrocities.”
Harris’ visit to Poland came amid a kerfuffle between Warsaw and Washington over a Polish proposal to send its Soviet-made fighter jets to a US and NATO base in Germany so they could then go to Ukraine. Poland, in turn, would receive American F-16s.
Poland had publicly floated the proposal without first consulting the US Just as Harris arrived in Warsaw late Wednesday, the Pentagon definitively rejected the idea, saying it would run the risk of escalating the Russia-Ukraine war.
At Thursday’s news conference, both Harris and Duda sought to brush aside differences on the fighter jets issue.
“I want to be very clear, the United States and Poland are united in what we have done and are prepared to do to help Ukraine and the people of Ukraine, full stop,” she said.
Duda for his part sidestepped questions about why Poland announced its proposal without first consulting the United States. He stressed his government’s intention was driven by a desire for “NATO as a whole to make a common decision” on the matter.
“In a nutshell we have to be a responsible member of the North Atlantic Alliance,” Duda said.
Harris’ embrace for an investigation of war crimes came after the Biden administration on Wednesday warned that Russia might seek to use chemical or biological weapons in Ukraine as the White House rejected Russian claims of illegal chemical weapons development in the country it has invaded.
The White House raised the notion of Russia after Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova — without evidence — accused Ukraine of running chemical and biological weapons labs with US support.
The International Criminal Court prosecutor announced last week he was launching of an investigation that could target senior officials believed responsible for war crimes, crimes against humanity or genocide amid a rising civilian death toll and widespread destruction of property during Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
But investigations at the ICC take many years, and relatively few convictions have ever been won. The ICC was set up in 2002 to prosecute war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. The crime of aggression, which can’t be investigated in Ukraine because neither Russia nor Ukraine is a member of the court, was added later.
Duda said “it is obvious to us that in Ukraine Russians are committing war crimes.” He added that in his view the invasion was “bearing the features of a genocide — it aims at eliminating and destroying a nation.”