Speaking at the Munich Security Conference, according to CNBC, Harris stated that the international community has a moral obligation to pursue and address the crimes. In addition to this, she noted that it is also of strategic importance to hold those responsible accountable. The VP further emphasized that a failure to uphold international rules and standards could potentially lead to other authoritarian governments taking advantage of the situation.
“Russian forces have pursued a widespread and systemic attack against a civilian population — gruesome acts of murder, torture, rape, and deportation,” Harris said, also claiming that Russian troops have engaged in “execution-style killings, beatings, and electrocution.”
“Russian authorities have forcibly deported hundreds of thousands of people, from Ukraine to Russia, including children,” she added. “They have cruelly separated children from their families.”
The outlet noted further:
The Biden administration formally determined last March that Russian troops had committed war crimes in Ukraine and said it would work with others to prosecute offenders. A determination of crimes against humanity goes a step further, indicating that attacks against civilians are being carried out in a widespread and systematic manner. Harris said that, as a former prosecutor and former head of California’s Department of Justice, she knows “the importance of gathering facts and holding them up against the law.”
“In the case of Russia’s actions in Ukraine, we have examined the evidence, we know the legal standards, and there is no doubt,” she said. “These are crimes against humanity.”
Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who was present at the Munich conference, issued a statement while Vice President Harris spoke, stating that “we reserve crimes against humanity determinations for the most egregious crimes.” He further highlighted that the recent determination underscores the "staggering extent" of suffering endured by Ukrainian civilians and demonstrates the United States' firm commitment to holding members of Russia's forces and other officials accountable for their atrocities. The secretary of state also noted that this determination also highlights the United States' unwavering support for Ukraine and its sovereignty.
Harris went on to address the annual gathering of security and defense officials by stating: “Let us all agree — on behalf of all the victims, both known and unknown, justice must be served.”
“Such is our moral interest. We also have a significant strategic interest," she said. “No nation is safe in a world where one country can violate the sovereignty and territorial integrity of another, where crimes against humanity are committed with impunity, where a country with imperialist ambitions can go unchecked."
If Russian President Vladimir Putin is successful in disregarding international rules and norms, “other nations could feel emboldened to follow his violent example,” the VP noted further. “Other authoritarian powers could seek to bend the world to their will, through coercion, disinformation, and even brute force.”
It should be noted that there were no Russian officials who attended the conference.
Russia Today reported that, according to a report by Politico on Tuesday, officials in Kyiv are concerned that the U.S. may seek to de-escalate the conflict in Ukraine. Although President Joe Biden has vowed to support the country "for as long as it takes" to overcome Russia, the officials fear that this could change.
As some Republican lawmakers are becoming more hesitant to financially support Ukraine, this could potentially be used as a reason to decrease military and financial assistance and push Kyiv into making concessions. An adviser to Ukrainian President Zelenskyy speculated on this scenario during an interview with Politico, but chose to remain anonymous.