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Russia committed war crimes, U.S. says. These world powers agree.

A damaged home near Makariv, Ukraine on March 23. (Heidi Levine for The Washington Post)

The United States has concluded that Russian forces have committed war crimes in Ukraine, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Wednesday, a week after President Biden first publicly called his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin a “war criminal.”

The United States has led the global response to the Kremlin’s invasion of Ukraine, but it is not the first country to accuse Putin’s troops of war crimes.

In early March, more than three dozen nations — mostly in Europe, but also including Australia, Canada, Colombia and Costa Rica — expedited an investigation into alleged Russian war crimes in Ukraine by submitting a referral to the International Criminal Court. (The United States has not ratified the Rome Statute, the tribunal’s founding document.)

Even among the countries that have refused to publicly condemn Russia’s invasion, most have called for restraint and an end to violence.

Here are some of the world powers that have accused Russia of war crimes in Ukraine and the specifics of what they say Putin is responsible for.

The United States says Russia is committing war crimes in Ukraine. Here’s what you need to know.



Foreign Minister Marise Payne has repeatedly described Russian acts in Ukraine as war crimes. During a Thursday interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corp., she pointed to the “intentional targeting of civilians,” as well as forced deportations of noncombatants and attacks on health-care facilities — all of which Ukrainian and Western officials have said Moscow is culpable of.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has also suggested that Putin be barred from the Group of 20 summit in Indonesia later this year. “The idea of sitting around a table with Vladimir Putin, who the United States are already in the position of calling out [for] war crimes in Ukraine, for me is a step too far,” he told reporters.



London was among the first governments to charge Moscow with perpetrating criminal acts during its assault on Ukraine. “Russia’s use of indiscriminate force against innocent civilians, in its illegal and unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, amounts to war crimes, for which the Putin regime must be held accountable,” the Foreign Office and the Justice Ministry said in a March 2 statement on Britain’s role referring the Ukraine war to the ICC.

“What we have seen already from Vladimir Putin’s regime in the use of the munitions” that Moscow has dropped on “innocent civilians … in my view already fully qualifies as a war crime,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson told Parliament this month.



“Russia is clearly a horrific aggressor in this situation, killing children and families randomly and committing war crimes,” Canadian Defense Minister Anita Anand, who visited Kyiv shortly before the Russian invasion, told news channel CTV on March 13.

Bob Rae, Canada’s ambassador to the United Nations, was one of the first Western officials to call Russia’s invasion a severe violation of international law. “War crime,” he tweeted hours after Moscow’s troops launched attacks on Ukraine. Rae is an adviser to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on the atrocities in Myanmar, where the United States on Monday declared that a genocide had occurred.


The European Union

Josep Borrell, the top E.U. foreign policy official, told reporters this week that the bloc considered Russia’s acts in Ukraine a “war crime, a massive war crime … against Ukrainian people” and that it “cannot go unanswered.” Speaking to European foreign ministers on Monday, he singled out the devastation of Mariupol, where there is an ongoing humanitarian disaster, as a particularly heinous act.

Drone video shared by Ukraine’s far-right Azov Battalion on March 23 showed widespread damage to a residential neighborhood in the besieged city of Mariupol. (Video: Azov Battalion via Telegram)

Borrell’s remarks were backed by other European leaders. The “courts will have to decide, but for me these are clearly war crimes,” German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said Monday, according to the Associated Press.

Lithuania — which, like the other Baltic states, has an uneasy relationship with Russia — has asked its prosecutors to investigate Putin and Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko for the crime of aggression. Justice Minister Evelina Dobrovolska also asked her European counterparts to consider setting up a special tribunal to hold Russia and Belarus “subject to international criminal liability.”

In just 72 hours, Europe overhauled its entire post-Cold War relationship with Russia


The United States

Earlier this month, the United States Senate unanimously passed a resolution condemning Putin and the Russian military for “committing atrocities, including alleged war crimes, against the people of Ukraine and others.”

After Blinken’s Wednesday statement, Sen. James E. Risch of Idaho, the ranking Republican member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, tweeted: “It is good to see the @StateDept finally acknowledge that #Putin’s actions are #warcrimes. … We must help Ukraine win now.”