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U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is officially calling the actions by certain members of Russia’s forces in Ukraine “war crimes.”
Blinken’s comments come nearly a week after he and President Biden said they personally believe that Russian President Vladimir Putin is a war criminal.
“Today, I can announce that, based on information currently available, the U.S. government assesses that members of Russia’s forces have committed war crimes in Ukraine,” a statement from Blinken reads. “Since launching his unprovoked and unjust war of choice, Russian President Vladimir Putin has unleashed unrelenting violence that has caused death and destruction across Ukraine.”
He said on Wednesday that the U.S. government assessment of war crimes being committed comes after a “careful review” of information from public and intelligence sources, stating that the United States would continue to track reports of war crimes.
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Blinken also said that the State Department has seen credible reports of “indiscriminate attacks” by Russian forces against Ukrainians, adding that they have destroyed schools, hospitals, critical infrastructure, apartment buildings, and more.
He said that many of these locations struck by Russian forces are “clearly identifiable” as being used by civilians.
He cited the strike on a Mariupol theater on March 16, stating that it was clearly marked with the word ‘children.’
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“This includes the Mariupol maternity hospital, as the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights expressly noted in a March 11 report. It also includes a strike that hit a Mariupol theater, clearly marked with the word ‘дети’ — Russian for ‘children’ — in huge letters visible from the sky,” Blinken said.
President Biden initially declined to call Putin a “war criminal” when asked by Fox News reporter Jacqui Heinrich on March 16, but circled back around 30 seconds later and said “Did you ask me whether I would call… Oh, I, I think he is a war criminal.”
Blinken said on March 17 that he personally agrees with President Biden on his assessment of Putin as a war criminal.
“Yesterday, President Biden said that, in his opinion, war crimes have been committed in Ukraine. Personally, I agree,” Blinken told reporters. “Intentionally targeting civilians is a war crime.”
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Putin announced the invasion into Ukraine on Feb. 24, stating that “our confrontation with these [Ukrainian] forces is inevitable.”
Since the beginning of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights estimates that 977 people have been killed and 1,594 have been injured, but that number is likely significantly higher due to unconfirmed deaths and injuries.
Fox News’ Caitlin McFall and Paul Best contributed to this report