Blinken: Russian attacks on civilians a ‘war crime’

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US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Thursday that he believes Russia is guilty of committing war crimes by attacking civilians in Ukraine.

He also said that Moscow was not making sincere efforts in peace talks with Kyiv, and that President Joe Biden was preparing to issue a warning to China not to send arms to Russia in support of its invasion of Ukraine.

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“Yesterday, President Biden said that in his opinion, war crimes have been committed in Ukraine,” Blinken told reporters at the State Department.

“Personally, I agree,” he said.

“Intentionally targeting civilians is a war crime. After all the destruction of the past few weeks, I find it difficult to conclude that the Russians are doing otherwise,” he said.

The chief US diplomat cited the recent bombing of a theater in Mariupol in southern Ukraine where many people had taken refuge and spelled out “children” in large Russian letters on the pavement outside for protection.

He also cited allegations that Russians opened fire on 10 civilians in line to buy bread in Chernihiv.

“With every day that passes the number of civilians, including children, killed and wounded, continues to climb,” he said.

“Russia continues to attack civilian sites, including this week alone, a hospital, three schools (and) a boarding school for visually impaired kids in the Luhansk region of Ukraine.”

He said US experts were now documenting and evaluating reports of attacks on civilians to determine if formal war crimes cases can be made.

“We need to go through this process of compiling the evidence, collecting the evidence, understanding the evidence. We’ll share that, and our allies and partners I’m sure will do the same, with all of the investigations that are ongoing, to support accountability using every tool that we have available,” he said.

Despite optimism from some areas, Blinken cast doubts on ongoing peace discussions between officials from Kyiv and Moscow as the war continues to rage, saying Russia is not negotiating seriously.

“On the one hand, we commend Ukraine for being at the table despite being under bombardment every minute of the day,” Blinken said.

“At the same time, I have not seen any meaningful efforts by Russia to bring this war that it is perpetrating to a conclusion through diplomacy.”

“Diplomacy requires both sides engaging in good faith to de-escalate. I don’t see signs right now that (Russian President Vladimir) Putin is prepared to stop.”

Blinken said that, in a phone discussion planned on Friday with Chinese President Xi Jinping, Biden would press Beijing to help end the war and not support Moscow’s unprovoked invasion.

“We believe China in particular has a responsibility to use its influence with President Putin and to defend the international rules and principles that it professes to support,” Blinken said.

“Instead, it appears that China is moving in the opposite direction.”

He said Washington is concerned China will ship arms to help Russia’s invasion.

In the talks Friday, he said, Biden “will make clear that China will bear responsibility for any actions it takes to support Russia’s aggression. And we will not hesitate to impose costs.”

Read more: Washington has ‘deep concerns’ over China ties with Russia: Senior US official

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