U.S. VP Harris supports call for a war crimes investigation against Russia

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Warsaw (Reuters) – Vice President Kamala Harris on Thursday offered U.S. support to calls for an international war crimes investigation into the Russian invasion of Ukraine, noting the United Nations had already started a process to review allegations.

“Absolutely there should be an investigation and we should all be watching and I have no question that the eyes of the world are on this war and what Russia has done in terms of this aggression and these atrocities,” Harris told a news conference in Warsaw after meeting Polish leaders to discuss next steps against Russia.

Harris cited examples including the bombing of a maternity hospital in the southern city of Mariupol on Wednesday, and scenes of bloodied pregnant women being evacuated.

Russia, which calls its actions a special military operation to disarm its neighbour and dislodge leaders it calls neo-Nazis, has denied targetting civilians. Russia on Thursday shifted its stance over the bombing of the hospital, with a mix of statements that veered between strong denials and a call by the Kremlin to establish clear facts.

Polish President Andrzej Duda, who spoke alongside Harris, labelled Russia’s actions in Ukraine “barbarism bearing the features of genocide.”

Harris’ visit came amid a rift between Washington and Warsaw over supplying warplanes to Ukraine.

The United States on Tuesday rejected a surprise offer by Poland to transfer its Russian-made MiG-29 fighter jets to a U.S. base in Germany and put them at the disposal of the United States as a way to replenish Ukraine’s air force.

The United States and its allies are eager to help Ukraine but are wary of any step that might draw them into direct conflict with Russia.

“We are ready to give our equipment for free, but we want the decision to be made by the alliance together,” Duda said.

Duda also urged more help to house and feed Ukrainians fleeing the conflict, and said he had asked Harris that Washington speed up the process for refugees who sought to go to the United States and might have family there.

Around 1.43 million Ukrainians have fled to Poland since the invasion began on Feb. 24, the Polish Border Guard said on Thursday. In total, more than 2.3 million people have fled Ukraine as of March 10, according to the U.N. migration agency IOM.

Harris met with seven refugees who have fled to Poland to hear about their experiences.

She also held talks with Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki and is due to meet Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who is also visiting Warsaw.