Home News Ukraine live briefing: Harris accuses Russia of ‘crimes against humanity’; Zelensky urges...

Ukraine live briefing: Harris accuses Russia of ‘crimes against humanity’; Zelensky urges ‘collapse of Russian aggression’


MUNICH — Vice President Harris on Saturday accused Russia of committing “crimes against humanity.”

“I know firsthand the importance of gathering facts and holding them up against the law,” she told an audience of global political and defense leaders at the Munich Security Conference. “In the case of Russia’s actions in Ukraine, we have examined the evidence, we know the legal standards, and there is no doubt: These are crimes against humanity.”

Harris accused Moscow of undertaking a “widespread and systemic attack against a civilian population,” and she cited deadly attacks in Bucha and Mariupol as she vowed continued U.S. support for Ukraine. “Borders must not be changed by force,” she added, warning that other nations might feel “emboldened” to follow Russia’s “violent example.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky addressed the conference by video link a day earlier and called for more support “to ensure the collapse of Russian aggression.”

Here’s the latest on the war and its impact across the globe.

Key developments

  • The United States has determined that Russia committed crimes against humanity in Ukraine, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, also in Munich, said in a statement Saturday. He said the determination had been made on the basis of a “careful analysis of the law and available facts” and that “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.”
  • Two explosions were reported in Khmelnytskyi in western Ukraine on Saturday, the regional governor, Serhiy Hamaliy, said on Telegram. Several areas across the country also experienced power outages as precautionary limits were placed on electricity supplies ahead of anticipated Russian strikes. Air raid alerts briefly sounded across much of the nation Saturday morning.
  • The first Ukrainian unit to undergo U.S. combat training in Germany has completed its course, the Pentagon said, and will return to the battlefield ahead of an anticipated Russian offensive in the spring. The group comprises about 635 soldiers who were instructed in the use of the more-advanced weaponry promised to Ukraine by the Biden administration.
  • Russia’s Wagner Group has suffered more than 30,000 casualties fighting in Ukraine, according to the White House, including approximately 9,000 killed. (Casualty figures include those wounded in combat.) About half of the mercenary group’s members who died in combat were killed since mid-December during heavy fighting near Bakhmut, National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said at a briefing. Most of those killed were criminal convicts, Kirby contended, men whom Russian President Vladimir Putin “just plucked out of prisons and threw on a battlefield.”
  • White House officials said President Biden had no public meeting scheduled with Zelensky “right now.” Biden is visiting Poland next week and is expected to deliver remarks ahead of the Feb. 24 anniversary of the invasion and meet with his Polish counterpart, Andrzej Duda. “The trip is going to be in Warsaw,” Kirby said.

Battlefield updates

  • It is becoming harder for the Kremlin to “insulate the population from the war in Ukraine,” Britain’s Defense Ministry said in a report. More than half of Russians “had either a friend or relative who had served in the so-called Special Military Operation,” it added, citing a Russian poll. In its daily intelligence update Saturday, it added that a senior Russian lawmaker had delivered a report on the war to Putin, who is expected to discuss the conflict at his annual address to the nation next week.
  • Russian forces have made minor advances toward Bakhmut’s city center, the Institute for the Study of War said in a daily assessment, citing geolocated footage of a Ukrainian armored fighting vehicle firing at Russian positions in the northeastern part of the city late Friday.
  • Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko offered during a summit with Putin to manufacture Su-25 fighter jets for Russia. The two leaders largely avoided discussion of the war, despite their meeting occurring a week before the first anniversary of the Russian invasion, The Washington Post reported. Lukashenko has previously said Belarus will join the conflict only if it were attacked.

Global impact

  • South Africa launched a joint naval exercise with Russia and China, triggering concerns among Western countries. The drill began Friday, with South African officials calling it routine, but it prompted some domestic and international criticism. South Africa was part of a recent diplomatic blitz by Russia’s foreign minister that also included Angola, Botswana, Eswatini and Eritrea.
  • The United States will warn international companies against evading U.S. sanctions on Russia, a senior Treasury Department official said. “You can continue to do things that are going to benefit Russia and provide them material support, but then you bear the risk of losing access to the European economy, to the United States economy, to the U.K. economy — this is your choice,” Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo told Reuters.
  • Finnish President Sauli Niinisto said the entry of his country and Sweden into NATO is “solely and exclusively” in Turkey’s hands. Finnish lawmakers are expected to ratify NATO’s founding treaties Feb. 28. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has expressed support for Finland’s bid but has been more equivocal about Sweden’s application.
  • Blinken met with Moldovan President Maia Sandu in Munich days after she publicly accused Russia of trying to stage a coup in her country. “We have deep concern about some of the plotting that we’ve seen coming from Russia to try to destabilize the government,” Blinken said after their meeting. Sandu said 2022 was “an incredibly difficult year for Moldova,” citing economic, energy and security concerns arising in part from the war in neighboring Ukraine. Russia exercises considerable influence in the breakaway Moldovan region of Transnistria, which borders southwestern Ukraine.

From our correspondents

Amid the Ukraine war, U.S. and allies are hunting down Russian spies: As the West has rushed weapons to Ukraine and piled economic sanctions against the Kremlin, Western security services have been waging a parallel but more secretive campaign to cripple Russian espionage networks.

The magnitude of the campaign appears to have caught Russia off guard, officials told The Washington Post’s Greg Miller, Souad Mekhennet, Emily Rauhala and Shane Harris, blunting its ability to carry out influence operations in Europe, stay in contact with informants or provide insights to the Kremlin on key issues including the extent to which Western leaders are prepared to continue stepping up arms deliveries to Ukraine.

David Stern contributed to this report from Kyiv. Jeong reported from Seoul, Suliman from London, and Cunningham and Parker from Washington.