CNN anchor Jake Tapper pressed Secretary of State Antony Blinken to state definitively whether or not the United States had seen evidence that Russia was committing war crimes as the invasion of Ukraine continued for a second week.
Blinken spoke with Tapper during a Sunday morning interview on CNN’s “State of the Union,” and Tapper argued that the ambiguous position President Joe Biden’s administration appeared to be taking was confusing at best.
"We've seen very credible reports of deliberate attacks on civilians…"
Secretary of State Antony Blinken tells CNN's @jaketapper the US is investigating and documenting reports of Russian attacks on Ukrainian civilians that could constitute war crimes. #CNNSOTU pic.twitter.com/A4RJsE5hms
— CNN (@CNN) March 6, 2022
Tapper noted that Ukrainian officials had been sounding the alarm for days, claiming that Russian President Vladimir Putin was directing Russian occupation forces in Ukraine to carry out brutal attacks against civilians and had authorized the use of illegal weapons. Most recently, the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv had tweeted a statement calling Russia’s attack on Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine’s largest nuclear power plant, a war crime.
“It is a war crime to attack a nuclear power plant. Putin’s shelling of Europe’s largest nuclear plant takes his reign of terror one step further. #TheHague #Zaporizhzhia #StandwithUkraine.”
— U.S. Embassy Kyiv (@USEmbassyKyiv) March 4, 2022
Tapper noted that the U.S. State Department’s immediate response had been to send out an urgent warning to all U.S. embassies in Europe, telling them not to retweet the claim — or to “un-retweet” it if they had already done so.
As CNN reported:
The US State Department sent an urgent message to all US embassies in Europe telling them not to retweet the US Embassy Kyiv’s tweet calling the attack on the Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant attack by Russia a war crime this morning, according to the message reviewed by CNN.
The message is an indication that the US government may not be endorsing the war crime allegation made by the embassy.
“All – do not/not retweet Embassy Kyiv’s tweet on shelling of the facility being a possible war crime,” the message said. “If you have retweeted it – un-retweet it ASAP.”
Tapper pressed Blinken on what he said was a “confusing step” and asked what it meant going forward.
“The State Department told other embassies around the world to not retweet it which is a confusing step. Has the U.S. seen evidence that Russia is committing war crimes or not?” he asked.
“We’ve seen very credible reports of deliberate attacks on civilians, which would constitute a war crime. We’ve seen very credible reports about the use of certain weapons,” Blinken replied. “What we’re doing right now is documenting all this, putting it all together, looking at it and making sure that as people and the appropriate organizations and institutions investigate whether war crimes have been or are being committed, that we can support whatever they’re doing.”
President Joe Biden has also been asked about whether or not he believed Putin was guilty of war crimes, and while he concede that it was clear Russian strikes were targeting civilians, he was not quite ready to put the “war crimes” label on them.