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Harris: ‘Any intentional attack or targeting of civilians is a war crime’

Vice President Kamala Harris holds a press conference following a meeting with Romanian President Klaus Iohannis at Cotroceni Palace in Otopeni, Romania
Saul Loeb/Pool Photo via AP

Vice President Harris on Friday said that intentional attacks against civilians are considered a war crime during a trip to Romania amid Russia’s military invasion of Ukraine. 

“We have been clear that any intentional attack or targeting of civilians is a war crime. Period,” she said when asked if Russia’s actions in Ukraine constitute war crimes.

The vice president on Thursday, while in Poland, voiced support for a war crimes investigation into Russia over its strikes on civilian areas. White House press secretary Jen Psaki said there is a legal review process to make considerations before labeling an action as a war crime when asked about Harris expressing for support for an investigation.

“That is the ongoing process that is — we’re pursuing at this point in time. It’s ongoing,” Psaki said. “Obviously, if Russia is intentionally targeting civilians, that would be a war crime. But we need to go through the legal assessment and review in order to make a formal conclusion.”

Harris’s comments also echo U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield, who on Sunday said that “any attack on civilians is a war crime.” 

On Friday, Harris condemned the fact that millions of refugees have fled Ukraine and condemned the strike on a maternity hospital in the city of Mariupol earlier this week.

“By the millions now are having to flee with nothing but a backpack and then you compound that with what happened a couple of days — in terms of the maternity hospital, pregnant women. We have the unfortunate experience, all of us right now who are not in Ukraine, of witnessing horror,” she said.

Harris reiterated Biden’s remarks at the State of the Union last week that there is a price to pay for democracy at home, amid record-high gas prices in the U.S. that the White House has blamed Russian President Vladimir Putin for.

“We are committed in everything we are doing,” Harris said. “You got to stand with your friends and as everybody knows even in your personal life, being loyal to those friendships based on common principles and values, sometimes it’s difficult. Often it ain’t easy, but that’s what the friendship is about, based on shared values. So that’s what we’re doing.”

Harris commended the Romanians for taking in Ukrainian refugees, while speaking alongside Romanian President Klaus Iohannis. 

“You have been welcoming tens of thousands of refugees and doing it with such compassion and such grace,” she said.

Iohannis reaffirmed the coordination between the United States, Romania, and other European allies when asked about the sanction packages applied against Russia so far.

“The sanction packages have been discussed between the United States and the European Union. We worked very well together on this and we will continue to work together on this,” he said. “If new sanctions will be necessary, they will be discussed and applied.”

Tags airstrikes civilian attacks Jen Psaki Linda Thomas-Greenfield Russia Ukraine Vladimir Putin War crimes

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