Attorney General Merrick Garland is making a surprise visit to Ukraine to throw America’s weight behind ongoing war crimes trials against the Russian military, the Justice Department revealed Tuesday.
Ukraine has reportedly opened roughly 16,000 investigations into alleged war crimes by Russian troops since Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the invasion of Ukraine in February. Multiple nations and international organizations have also launched investigations into alleged Russian crimes.
“Attorney General Merrick Garland is making an unannounced visit to Ukraine today, where he will meet with Ukrainian Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova to discuss U.S. and international efforts to help Ukraine identify, apprehend, and prosecute those individuals involved in war crimes and other atrocities in Ukraine,” the official said.
The International Criminal Court (ICC) opened its largest investigation ever into alleged war crimes in late May.
The ICC is working in a Join Investigation Team alongside Ukrainian, Polish and Lithuanian prosecutors. The European Union’s legal branch, Eurojust, is also participating in the effort.
The U.N. Human Rights Council also opened an inquiry into alleged Russian war crimes in mid-May.
The HRC held a special session to address Ukraine’s allegations that Russian troops had committed atrocities against civilians during their withdrawal from areas surrounding Kyiv. The HRC voted 33-2 in favor of opening the inquiry, with 12 abstentions. China and Eritrea were the only nations to vote against the measure.
War crime allegations arose after the Russian withdrawal from around Kyiv revealed that Bucha, a town in the area, saw Russian troops kill as many as 400 citizens and force others to dig mass graves.
The U.S., U.K. and other NATO allies have denounced Russian President Vladimir Putin as a war criminal. President Joe Biden called for Putin to face a war crime trial in early April.
“This guy is brutal. What is happening in Bucha is outrageous and everyone has seen it – I think it is a war crime,” Biden said at the time, adding that the U.S. needs to “get all the detail, so this can be an actual war crime trial.”