Vice President Kamala Harris speaks during the 2023 Munich Security Conference in Munich, Germany, on Saturday. The Munich Security Conference brings world leaders together ahead of the first anniversary of Russia's invasion of Ukraine as Kyiv steps up pleas for more weapons. Photo by Marc Mueller MSC/UPI | License Photo
Feb. 18 (UPI) -- U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris on Saturday accused Russia of committing war crimes during its year-long invasion of Ukraine.
Speaking at the Munich Security Conference in Germany, Harris said Moscow had committed "crimes against humanity" in Ukraine and promised that the country and its leader, President Vladimir Putin, would pay for its actions.
"In the case of Russia's actions in Ukraine, we have examined the evidence, we know the legal standards, and there is no doubt," Harris said. "The United States has formally determined that Russia has committed crimes against humanity. To all of those who are perpetrating these crimes, and to their superiors, who are complicit in these crimes, you will be held to account."
In her remarks, the vice president singled out Russian massacres of civilians in the Ukrainian towns of Bucha, where more than 300 bodies were discovered in April after Russian forces retreated, and Mariupol, where hundreds more civilians were killed in a March 2022 Russian airstrike on a theater where civilians were sheltering.
That action was deemed a war crime by Amnesty International.
Kyiv has repeatedly accused Russia of committing crimes against humanity during its invasion.
Following the liberation of Ukrainian regions, Ukrainian officials have documented several mass graves, where the bodies of hundreds of civilians displaying evidence of execution and torture were buried.
The Biden administration has accused Russia of war crimes previously, but Harris' high-profile remarks in Munich were the most explicit accusations yet and were seen by some analysts as a move to create momentum for a possible international tribunal.
Harris detailed some of the specifics of the allegations, accusing Russian forces of pursuing "a widespread and systemic attack against a civilian population, gruesome acts of murder, torture, rape, and deportation."
Russian authorities, she said, "have forcibly deported hundreds of thousands of people, from Ukraine to Russia, including children. They have cruelly separated children from their families."
President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine receives a U.S. flag from Vice President Kamala Harris (L) and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (R) after addressing a joint session of Congress at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday. Photo by Jemal Countess/UPI | License Photo