Attorney General Merrick Garland made an unannounced visit to Ukraine Tuesday to meet with his Ukrainian counterpart to discuss the prosecution of war crimes in the Russian invasion.
While there he announced the creation of a “War Crimes Accountability Team” to centralize the department’s work in holding those who have committed war crimes accountable.
Garland met with Ukrainian Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova to reaffirm the United States’s commitment to identify, apprehend and prosecute those who have taken part in war crimes during the Russia-Ukraine conflict, according to a tweet from Justice Department spokesman Anthony Coley.
Garland said in a video Coley posted that he came to Ukraine to continue the discussions he has had with Venediktova on how the U.S. can assist and is assisting Ukrainian officials in holding individuals responsible for the “atrocities the world has seen.”
“The United States is sending an unmistakable message: there is no place to hide,” he said. “We and our partners will pursue every avenue available to make sure that those who are responsible for these atrocities are held accountable.”
A number of alleged Russian war crimes against Ukrainian civilians have been reported throughout the war, including thousands of civilians being killed or kidnapped and taken to Russia and multiple allegations of Russian soldiers raping women as they advanced.
Eli Rosenbaum, a former director of the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Office of Special Investigations, will lead the newly announced War Crimes Accountability Team, according to a release from the Justice Department.
“This initiative will bring together the Department’s leading experts in investigations involving human rights abuses and war crimes and other atrocities; and provide wide-ranging technical assistance, including operational assistance and advice regarding criminal prosecutions, evidence collection, forensics, and relevant legal analysis,” the release says.
The DOJ will also provide more staff to expand its role in assisting Ukraine to fight illegal Russian finance practices and sanction evasion, the release states.
A DOJ prosecutor will advise Ukraine on opposing kleptocracy, corruption and money laundering. The department will station two attorneys from the DOJ’s Office of International Affairs at embassies in Europe and the Middle East, respectively, to support the KleptoCapture Task Force, which Garland created in March to enforce economic punishments placed on Russia.
Garland is the latest Biden administration official to make a trip to Ukraine, although Biden himself has not yet visited since the war began. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin visited the capital Kyiv in late April. First lady Jill Biden visited last month with Ukrainian first lady Olena Zelenska.
Updated at 12:45 p.m.