(CNSNews.com) – Days before the first anniversary of Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, Secretary of State Antony Blinken confirmed at the weekend a formal determination that Russian troops and officials have committed “crimes against humanity” in the country – and he did not rule out the possibility that a “genocide” determination may be next.
“Members of Russia’s forces have committed execution-style killings of Ukrainian men, women, and children; torture of civilians in detention through beatings, electrocution, and mock executions; rape; and, alongside other Russian officials, have deported hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian civilians to Russia, including children who have been forcibly separated from their families,” he said in the determination.
“These acts are not random or spontaneous; they are part of the Kremlin’s widespread and systematic attack against Ukraine’s civilian population.”
“Is the State Department working on a genocide determination?” CBS “Face the Nation” host Margaret Brennan asked Blinken in an interview aired on Sunday.
“We will, as always, look at every legal possibility when it comes to going after the atrocities that Russia is committing in Ukraine,” he replied.
Blinken cited a Yale University study that found Russia has moved and is holding thousands of Ukrainian children in at least 43 facilities for political reeducation and adoption by Russian nationals – a practice which, as a parent, he said, “is almost impossible to fathom.”
“Some of these places are closer to Alaska than they are to Ukraine,” he said, referring to a camp in Russia’s far-eastern Magadan region, almost 4,000 miles from the Russia-Ukraine border.
“Separating them from their families and then having them adopted by Russians – this is in and of itself, horrific,” Blinken said. “It also speaks to the fact that President Putin has been trying from day one to erase Ukraine’s identity, to erase its future.”
Brennan pointed out that some of what Blinken was describing aligns with the statutory definition of genocide. She asked again if the department was “potentially looking at that.”
“We will look at every possible determination,” Blinken said. “But we’re going to follow the facts, and we’re going to follow the law. These are very serious determinations, and we will engage in them very seriously.”
The “crimes against humanity” determination comes 11 months after the State Department determined that Russian forces in Ukraine were committing “war crimes.”
“Genocide” is a more specific, and significantly more serious offense.
The 1948 U.N. Convention on Genocide defines it as the intent to destroy a national, ethnic, racial or religious group, accompanied by atrocities aimed at achieving that end.
Legislation signed by President Reagan to implement the convention into law in 1988 defines genocide as acts that have the “specific intent to destroy, in whole or in substantial part, a national, ethnic, racial, or religious group as such.”
‘Humiliation and genocide perpetrated by the [Kyiv] regime’
Just two months into the invasion of Ukraine, President Biden last April expressed his view that Putin was committing “genocide,” although he said he would leave it to lawyers to determine whether Russian actions meet the legal determination.
The following month, Lithuania’s parliament passed a resolution accusing Russia of carrying out “genocide against the Ukrainian people,” and calling on the international community to establish an international tribunal to prosecute and hold accountable the perpetrators.
The resolution, the first by any legislature to label Russia a terrorist-supporting state, said the envisaged tribunal should be authorized to issue international arrest warrants, with no immunity for heads of state.
Ironically, since 2014 Russia and its proxies in eastern Ukraine have been accusing Kyiv of committing genocide against Russian-speakers in the Donbass regions of Donetsk and Luhansk.
In his speech a year ago announcing the start of the “special military operation,” Putin said the aim was to defend the two separatist entities – which he had recognized days earlier as independent – against “humiliation and genocide perpetrated by the [Kyiv] regime.”
Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Anatoly Antonov on Sunday condemned the U.S. “crimes against humanity” determination.
Responding to a media question, he described the accusations as “an attempt, unprecedented in terms of its cynicism, to demonize Russia in the course of a hybrid war, unleashed against us.”
“There is no doubt that the purpose of such attacks is to justify Washington’s own actions to fuel the Ukrainian crisis,” he said, in remarks posted on the Russian Embassy’s Telegram channel.
Antonov also accused the U.S. of turning a blind eye to “atrocities” by the Ukrainian government in Donbass, and asked, “Why is no one calling for the punishment of fascist thugs?”
Since 1988, the U.S. government has formally determined genocide to have occurred eight times across the globe, applying to atrocities committed: by Bosnian Serbs against Muslims in Bosnia (1993); by ethnic Hutu extremists in Rwanda (1994); by Saddam Hussein’s regime against Iraqi Kurds (1995); by the Khartoum regime and allied militias in Darfur (2004); by ISIS terrorists against Christians, Yazidis and other religious minorities in Syria and Iraq (2016); by the Chinese Communist Party against Uyghurs and other minority Muslims in Xinjiang (Jan. 2021), and by the Burmese military against Rohingya Muslims in Burma (2022).
Biden in 2021 recognized the mass killings of Armenian Christians as the Ottoman Empire disintegrated a century ago, as genocide.
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