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Attorney General Merrick Garland travels to Ukraine to meet with counterpart about war crimes related to Russian invasion

Russia intensifies attacks on Kharkiv
Russia intensifies attacks on Kharkiv02:06

Attorney General Merrick Garland traveled to Ukraine on Tuesday to meet with Ukrainian Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova to discuss U.S. efforts to help Ukraine identify, apprehend, and prosecute individuals connected to war crimes in Russia's war against Ukraine, according to the Justice Department.

"I am here to express the unwavering support of the United States for the people of Ukraine in the midst of the unprovoked and unjust Russian invasion," Garland told the press in attendance, adding he and Venediktova were gathering to continue discussions on war crimes in Ukraine.

"The United States is sending an unmistakable message. There is no place to hide. We and our partners will pursue every avenue available to make sure that those who are responsible for these atrocities are held accountable," said the Attorney General.

U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland and Ukrainian Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova, meet in Krakovets, at the Ukraine border with Poland, on Tuesday, June 21, 2022. Nariman El-Mofty / AP

While Garland and Venediktova were meeting, the Justice Department said Garland announced the creation of the War Crimes Accountability team, which will take part in the investigation of potential war crimes in Ukraine that fall under U.S. jurisdiction. 

In March, an American journalist was killed and another was wounded by Russian forces in the town of Irpin outside the capital of Kyiv as they were traveling to film refugees. That same month, a Fox News cameraman and a local producer working for the network were killed in an attack that left the network's correspondent Benjamin Hall injured as they reported near Ukraine's capital Kyiv.

Led by former Director of the Office Of Special Investigations and one-time Nazi war crime prosecutor Eli Rosenbaum, the initiative will "centralize and strengthen the Justice Department's ongoing work to hold accountable those who have committed war crimes and other atrocities in Ukraine," according to a release from the Justice Department.

The attorney general also announced his department will provide Ukraine with a federal prosecutor to advise on combatting kleptocracy and corruption. Earlier this year, the Justice Department launched Task Force KleptoCature aimed at targeting the assets of Russian oligarchs who seek to evade U.S. sanctions and trade policies against Russia following the invasion of Ukraine. Recently, a megayacht was seized after officials determined it belonged to sanctioned gold mining billionaire Suleiman Kerimov and two jets allegedly belonging to oligarch Roman Abramovich were accused of violating U.S. restrictions.  

The previously unannounced meeting between the two chief law enforcement officers comes after Garland has been outspoken about the U.S.'s role in investigating potential war crimes in Ukraine. 

"This Department has a long history of helping to hold accountable those who perpetrate war crimes," Garland told the press earlier this year.  "We are assisting international efforts to identify and hold accountable those responsible for atrocities in Ukraine.  And we will continue to do so.'  

Earlier this month, Garland met with European Union Commissioner for Justice and Consumer Affairs Didier Reynders in Washington, D.C. The two talked about how to best support ongoing war crimes investigations related to Russian aggression toward Ukraine.

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