Ukraine: ‘Very credible reports’ show Russian attacks on civilians ‘deliberate’, says Blinken

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken during a meeting with representatives of organizations helping refugees from Ukraine in Rzeszow, Poland, 5 March 2022. (EPA)
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US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is disputing claims from Moscow that Russia’s military is not engaging in the “deliberate” targeting of civilians in its invasion of Ukraine.

Mr Blinken spoke Sunday on CNN’s State of the Union, where he told host Jake Tapper that “very credible” evidence suggested otherwise. Such an action, Mr Blinken added, would “constitute a war crime”.

His comments, while still hesitant, are much stronger than those of the White House throughout the past week, which would not suggest that Moscow had committed war crimes while telling reporters that US personnel were investigating the situation to determine if civilians were being targeted.

The US has trailed a number of nations, including the UK, in declaring Russia’s military guilty of violating international conventions of war by deliberately attacking civilian centers and using banned munitions like cluster bombs. Mr Blinken said reports of cluster bomb use were “very credible” on Sunday as well, but did not take an official position beyond that.

Sunday’s remarks by Mr Blinken could indicate that the Biden administration will soon officially make a determination. Nato secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg has already accused Russia of using cluster bombs, telling reporters on Friday: “We have seen the use of cluster bombs and we have seen reports of use of other types of weapons which would be in violation of international law”.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said last week, during his question period: “What we have seen already from Vladimir Putin’s regime in the use of the munitions that they have already been dropping on innocent civilians, in my view, already fully qualifies as a war crime”.

International pressure has ramped up quickly against Russia since its invasion of Ukraine began, and there is little sign that the Biden administration or its allies around Europe, Asia and elsewhere will cease efforts to cause economic pain in Russia and target oligarchs connected to Vladimir Putin.

A new round of sanctions unveiled last week allows the US to seize assets belonging to Russian oligarchs abroad.