A petroleum storage depot is on fire after a Russian missile attack in Vasylkiv, Ukraine, on February 27. Dozens of Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe members asked Ukraine Thursday to invite a mission to investigate possible Russian war crimes. File Photo by Alisa Yakubovych/EPA-EFE
March 4 (UPI) -- Ukraine has agreed to the deployment of an Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe mission of experts tasked with investigating possible war crimes committed within its borders by Russia.
The OSCE Moscow Mechanism, which permits the deployment of experts to accepting nations to monitor potential violations of human rights laws, was invoked by 45 of the organization's 57 member states amid Russia's ongoing invasion of its European neighbor.
The countries' letter to the OSCE on Thursday called on it to ask Ukraine to invite a mission "to address the human rights and humanitarian impacts of the Russian Federation's invasion and acts of war, supported by Belarus, on the people of Ukraine."
Ukraine and Russia are both OSCE participating states.
In a statement late Thursday, the U.S. State Department said Ukraine agreed to the mechanism's invocation.
"We will hold Russia accountable for its war crimes and crimes against humanity," Dmytro Kuleba, Ukraine's minister of foreign affairs, tweeted Thursday about the OSCE mission.
State Department spokesman Ned Price said the mission will work to establish the facts concerning possible contraventions of OSCE commitments and violations as well as abuses of international human rights and humanitarian law.
A report will then be prepared and shared with all OSCE member states as well as national, regional and international courts and tribunals, he said.
"We have seen the troubling media reports of human rights abuses and violations of humanitarian law by Russia's forces, including the mounting number of civilian casualties and extensive damage to civilian infrastructure," Price said. "The United States and our partners will hold Russia and its forces accountable for all human rights abuses, violations of international humanitarian law, war crimes and crimes against humanity they commit in Ukraine."
The announcement came a day after the International Criminal Court said it will immediately proceed with investigations into possible war crimes, crimes against humanity or genocide committed by all sides in Ukraine as far back as 2013.
The Ukrainian Parliament has called on residents who have documentary evidence of war crimes to send the materials to The Hague via email.
On Wednesday, the OSCE said one of its members was killed during Russian shelling in Kharkiv this week, Ukraine's second-largest city and a hotly contested city in the fighting.
Russia launched its invasion on Feb. 24 and have been met with solid resistance by Ukrainian forces. The United Nations says that about 250 Ukrainian civilians have been killed and hundreds injured. The U.N. refugee agency said Thursday that more than 1 million people have fled the country since the fighting began a week ago.
European Union leaders attend a summit at the Chateau de Versailles near Paris on March 11, 2022. Photo by the European Union/ UPI | License Photo