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Garland reaffirms US commitment to holding Russia accountable in surprise Ukraine visit

Attorney General Merrick Garland reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to hold Russia accountable for war crimes it has committed in an unannounced visit to Ukraine on Friday.

Garland met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and law enforcement officials in the western city of Lviv while at the United for Justice Conference, according to a readout of his visit from the Department of Justice.

Garland said at an address that the conference’s mission is to hold Russian leaders accountable for the actions its military has taken during the war in Ukraine, according to the readout. 

It said Garland “reaffirmed our determination to hold Russia accountable for crimes committed in its unjust and unprovoked invasion of Ukraine.” Garland’s visit was reportedly not announced publicly in advance for security purposes.

“Just over 12 months ago, invading Russian forces began committing atrocities at the largest scale in any armed conflict since the Second World War,” Garland said at the conference’s opening session. “We are here today in Ukraine to speak clearly, and with one voice: the perpetrators of those crimes will not get away with them.”

The readout states that Garland’s presence at the conference is symbolic and strategic to push forward the work of the Justice Department’s War Crimes Accountability Team. He also met with other top officials such as Ukrainian Prosecutor General Andriy Kostin, Polish Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro and U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Bridget Brink to discuss increasing cooperation to address to Russian war crimes and illegal financing.

Garland is the latest top U.S. official to visit Ukraine as the war enters its second year. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen met with Zelensky during a trip earlier this week to pledge continued economic assistance to Ukraine. 

President Biden made a surprise trip to Ukraine late last month, shortly before the anniversary of Russia’s full-scale invasion of the country. During the visit, he vowed to stand by Ukraine for as long as is necessary to turn back Russian forces from captured territory. 

Garland also previously visited Ukraine in June to discuss the prosecution of Russian war crimes. 

Russian soldiers have been documented committing many war crimes, including rape, torture and summary executions, during the conflict. The United States officially declared last month that Russia had committed crimes against humanity in the war. 

At least 20 torture chambers, which were funded by the Kremlin, were found in the Ukrainian city of Kherson after a Ukrainian counteroffensive freed the region late last year, according to a report released this week.

This story was updated at 6:59 p.m.

Source: The Hill

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