It is only a matter of time before Vladimir Putin is put on trial for war crimes, U.S. envoy Beth Van Schaack said in an interview with Sky News released Friday, joining growing calls to hold Russia’s top political echelon accountable for atrocities in Ukraine as the war enters its second year.
A global team of investigators examining allegations of Russian atrocities and war crimes in Ukraine are building a case that goes all the way to President Vladimir Putin himself, Van Schaack said.
Van Schaack said experts are working to connect the abundance of “very clear digital evidence” of crimes on the ground with the people further up the chain of command who ordered them or otherwise allowed them to be committed with impunity.
While it may appear unlikely Putin will ever face a court for his leading role in Russia’s invasion, Van Schaack pointed to Chile’s Augusto Pinochet, Serbia’s Slobodan Milosevic and Chad’s Hissene Habre as proof former dictators can and do answer for their crimes.
Van Schaack said she didn’t think “any of those men thought they would ever see the inside of a courtroom,” adding that “every single one of them did.”
This will not happen quickly with Putin and “we need to be playing a long game,” Van Schaack said.
Ukraine, international humanitarian organizations and multiple countries have now openly accused Russian troops of committing war crimes in Ukraine. Russia invaded Ukraine a year ago and its forces have committed multiple atrocities in that time. Russian forces have targeted civilians and residential areas through sexual violence, carrying out extrajudicial executions, torturing civilians and prisoners of war and deploying restricted weapons. Leaders in Moscow have been accused of overseeing, or even ordering, such acts, as well as broader crimes of aggression for instigating war. Russia has steadfastly denied any allegations of war crimes and claims the invasion is an act of self defense, not an act of aggression. Multiple teams, including in Ukraine, the International Criminal Court and across Europe, are investigating with a possible view to prosecution…