US launches program to capture and analyze evidence of Russian war crimes in Ukraine


WASHINGTON, May 17 (Reuters) – The U.S. State Department on Tuesday announced the launch of a new program to collect and analyze evidence of war crimes and other atrocities allegedly committed by Russia in Ukraine, as that Washington seeks to ensure that Moscow is held accountable for its actions.

The State Department said in a statement that the so-called Conflict Observatory will encompass documenting, verifying, and disseminating open-source evidence of Russia’s actions in Ukraine. Reports and analyzes will be made available on the Conflict Observatory website.

US President Joe Biden has hammered Russia over what he calls ‘major war crimes’ committed in Ukraine, and underscored his determination to hold Moscow accountable for unleashing Europe’s biggest ground war since World War II .

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The Kyiv government accused Russia of atrocities and brutality against civilians during the invasion and said it identified more than 10,000 possible war crimes.

Russia denies targeting civilians and claims, without evidence, that signs of atrocities were staged.

The US State Department said the new program, which is being set up with an initial investment of $6 million, will analyze and store information, including satellite imagery and information shared on social media, so that can be used in current and future accountability mechanisms.

“This new conflict observatory program is part of a series of U.S. government efforts domestically and internationally aimed at ensuring future accountability for Russia’s horrific actions,” the statement said.

The program is a collaboration with geographic information systems company Esri, the Yale University Humanitarian Research Laboratory, the Smithsonian Cultural Rescue Initiative and PlanetScape Ai, the State Department said, adding that future funding will come from the European Initiative for Democratic Resilience.

State Department spokesman Ned Price said the United States has been engaged through various mechanisms to collect and document evidence of potential war crimes and atrocities with prosecutors, entities states and organizations involved.

But the new program, he told reporters, will share those findings with the public and authorities in the appropriate jurisdictions, including in Ukraine and possibly the United States, “so that prosecutors can even potentially build criminal cases based on the published material.”

A Ukrainian court on Friday held a preliminary hearing in the first war crimes trial stemming from the February 24 Russian invasion, after it charged a captured Russian soldier with the murder of a 62-year-old civilian. Read more

Russia has shelled cities to the rubble and hundreds of civilian bodies have been found in towns where its forces have withdrawn since the start of what it calls a special operation to demilitarize Ukraine. kyiv and its Western allies say this is a baseless pretext for unprovoked war.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) said on April 25 that it would participate in a joint team with prosecutors from Ukraine, Poland and Lithuania investigating allegations of war crimes against Russian forces.

Ukraine has little experience in prosecuting such cases. Its parliament passed legislation last year aimed at providing a legal framework for war crimes prosecutions in line with international practice, Zera Kozlyieva, deputy head of the war crimes unit at the office of the Prime Minister, said last month. Attorney General.

She said the country had previously convicted only three people for crimes between 2014 and the invasion in February this year. These were linked to the conflict in the disputed Donbass region and Crimea, which was annexed by Russia.

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Reporting by Daphne Psaledakis Editing by Bill Berkrot

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