The White House is pledging to hold Russia accountable for potential war crimes as reports of hundreds of mass graves pour in from the recently liberated Ukrainian city of Izyum.
National Security Council spokesman John Kirby on Friday called the reports “horrifying.”
“It’s repugnant,” Mr. Kirby said. “And sadly, it’s in keeping with the kind of depravity and the brutality with which Russian forces have been prosecuting this war against Ukraine and the Ukrainian people.”
“We’re going to continue to actively support efforts to document war crimes and atrocities that Russian forces commit in Ukraine and to assist national and international efforts to identify and hold Russians accountable,” he said.
Mr. Kirby said reports indicate more than 440 graves have been discovered in the region surrounding Izyum days after Ukrainian forces reclaimed the territory as part of its counter-offensive in the northeastern Kharkiv region. Some of the graves reportedly contain civilians.
The findings have prompted Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to double down on his calls on the U.S. and other international leaders to lump Russia in with Cuba, North Korea, Iran and Syria as a state sponsor of terrorism — the only four countries that currently carry the designation — in response to the Kremlin’s assault on Ukraine.
President Biden has so far rejected calls to apply the designation to the Kremlin.
The White House says the move could have “unintended consequences for Ukraine and the world” and undermine the U.S. ability to support Ukraine at the negotiating table.
“We think that there are better alternatives for holding Russia accountable and to increasing the costs and consequences of their behavior in Ukraine,” Mr. Kirby said.