The U.S. formally accused members of Russia’s armed forces of committing war crimes in Ukraine and promised to hold Moscow accountable, including through potential criminal prosecutions. Secretary of State Antony Blinken made the accusation in a statement. President Biden has called Russian leader Vladimir Putin a “war criminal,” though Blinken did not directly accuse the autocrat, Politico reports. The impact of the accusation against Russian troops is hard to predict at this stage, though the symbolism could, sap morale among Russian forces. People accused of war crimes can be tried in a variety of forums, such as the International Criminal Court (ICC) or a special tribunal, but it’s often impossible to gain custody of them.
“Our assessment is based on a careful review of available information from public and intelligence sources,” Blinken said. “As with any alleged crime, a court of law with jurisdiction over the crime is ultimately responsible for determining criminal guilt in specific cases.” The ICC has launched its own investigation into Russian actions in Ukraine, as have other entities including the Biden administration. The U.S. itself has not always recognized the authority of the ICC. Beth Van Schaack, the Biden administration’s ambassador-at-large for global criminal justice, said U.S. officials will consider even domestic courts to litigate the war crimes cases.