The United States has seen “very credible reports” of deliberate attacks on civilians by Russia in Ukraine that “would constitute a war crime,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Sunday. Speaking on CNN’s State of the Union, Blinken also said Washington has seen “very credible reports about the use of certain weapons.”
Blinken talked about the possibility of war crimes in Ukraine days after the head prosecutor of the International Criminal Court said he would launch an investigation into allegations of war crimes, crimes against humanity or genocide committed in Ukraine. The prosecutor said he was able to move quickly in launching the investigation because he had received referrals from 39 countries.
President Joe Biden’s administration has so far not explicitly accused Russia of war crimes, although the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv sent a tweet Friday pretty much saying that Russia’s attack on a nuclear power plant in Ukraine constituted a war crime. The State Department quickly sent a message to other embassies in Europe calling on them not to retweet that message and publicly said the issue was still under investigation. “The intentional targeting of civilians or civilian objects, including nuclear power plants, is a war crime, and we are assessing the circumstances of this operation,” a State Department spokesman said.
For now, Blinken said Washington is gathering information that can help those who are investigating the possibility that war crimes have been committed. “What we’re doing right now is documenting all this, putting it all together, looking at it and making sure that as people and the appropriate organizations and institutions investigate whether war crimes have been or are being committed, that we can support whatever they’re doing,” Blinken said. “So right now, we’re looking at these reports. They’re very credible and we’re documenting everything.”
Blinken also said that Washington and its European allies are exploring the possibility of banning Russian oil imports. “We are now in very active discussions with our European partners about banning the import of Russian oil to our countries, while of course, at the same time, maintaining a steady global supply of oil,” Blinken said in an interview on NBC’s Meet the Press.