National Security

Lawmakers call for US intelligence community to track potential war crimes in Ukraine

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) is seen during a business meeting of the Jan. 6 House Select Committee on Wednesday, December 1, 2021 to consider Jeffrey Clark, a former Justice Department official in the Trump administration, in contempt of Congress.
Greg Nash

The U.S. intelligence community should leverage its power to warn of and document Russian war crimes in Ukraine, the House Intelligence Committee urged in a rare bipartisan letter.

The letter to Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines encourages the intelligence community (IC) to continue to openly share its intelligence on the conflict as a way to battle Russian misinformation as it continues its invasion.

“The IC should work diligently to declassify information related to Russia’s planned or actual war crimes or other atrocities. Doing so might deter Russia from continuing down this path or further demonstrate to the world Russia’s callous disregard for the lives of civilians, and the indiscriminate assault that has killed thousands of Ukrainians, and displaced millions more,” the committee wrote.

“Just as the IC has assisted our Ukrainian partners in anticipating a full-scale Russian military invasion and false flag operations, we believe it would be appropriate to provide intelligence that may assist in identifying safer evacuation corridors and calling out Russian violations of any agreed-upon humanitarian ceasefires,” the committee added. 

The letter comes amid increasing calls for Russia to be investigated for war crimes, including a comment from President Biden last week calling President Vladimir Putin “a war criminal.”

The United Nations human rights office on Tuesday reported 2,510 civilian casualties since the invasion against Ukraine started on Feb. 24, including 953 who were killed and 1,557 who were injured. However, the actual figures are believed to be “considerably higher.”  

“Russia is the aggressor here and I think we have seen here at the Pentagon — we’re certainly seeing clear evidence that the Russian military is conducting war crimes,” Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said Tuesday.

Any efforts to determine whether Russia has committed war crimes are in their earliest stages. The United Nations Human Rights Council earlier this month voted to establish a “Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine” that has a mandate to investigate all alleged rights violations. 

And the the International Court of Justice, the top arbiter for the United Nations, has called for Russia to immediately halt its military operation and withdraw its troops from Ukraine, responding to a complaint from Kyiv filed last month accusing Russia of falsely claiming genocide to justify its invasion. 

The letter encourages the intelligence community to declassify and share any information that could be used by the international bodies.

“The IC possess unparalleled resources and insights into the ground truth in Ukraine, which would be critically important in any potential war crimes proceeding,” the lawmakers wrote.

Tags Avril Haines Joe Biden John Kirby Vladimir Putin

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