On Friday, March 3, the Attorney General made an unannounced trip to Lviv, Ukraine, at the invitation of Ukrainian Prosecutor General to join international partners at the “United for Justice Conference.” The Attorney General reaffirmed our determination to hold Russia accountable for crimes committed in its unjust and unprovoked invasion of Ukraine. The conference provided a forum to discuss specific initiatives and measures that the international community, alongside Ukraine, is taking to comprehensively seek justice and accountability for all those responsible for war crimes and atrocities in Ukraine.
At the Opening Session of the conference, the Attorney General provided remarks in which he discussed, among other things, the Justice Department’s role in collaborating with the Ukrainian Prosecutor General and the moral and personal responsibility he feels in pursuing accountability.
“Just over twelve months ago, invading Russian forces began committing atrocities at the largest scale in any armed conflict since the Second World War. We are here today in Ukraine to speak clearly, and with one voice: the perpetrators of those crimes will not get away with them,” said Attorney General Garland. “In addition to our work in partnership with Ukraine and the international community, the United States has also opened criminal investigations into war crimes in Ukraine that may violate U.S. law. Although we are still building our cases, interviewing witnesses, and collecting evidence, we have already identified specific suspects. Our prosecutors are working day and night to bring them to justice as quickly as possible.”
This trip is an important part of the Department of Justice’s unwavering commitment to the freedom of Ukraine.
That commitment takes two forms:
- A determination to hold Russia accountable for war crimes committed in its unjust invasion, through the investigations and other work of the Department of Justice’s War Crimes Accountability Team; and
- Our ongoing work to seize illicit Russian assets for the benefit of the people of Ukraine, and to prosecute those who facilitate the evasion of sanctions imposed on Russia, through Task Force KleptoCapture.
The Attorney General’s presence in Ukraine is thus not only symbolic, but strategic as well — since it serves the purpose of driving forward the operational work of the War Crimes Accountability Team and Task Force KleptoCapture.
In addition, the United States became the first country to sign a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the seven-member Joint Investigative Team (JIT) that is investigating Russian atrocities in Ukraine. The MOU, signed by the Attorney General, will facilitate the United States’ cooperation and coordination with the JIT members as we collect evidence and investigate Russia’s atrocity crimes. It also signals our resolve that Russia’s invasion will not undermine our collective commitment to uphold human rights and preserve a free and democratic society.
At the conference, the Attorney General also met with Ukrainian President Zelenskyy, U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Brink, Ukrainian Prosecutor General Kostin, EU Commissioner Reynders, Polish Minister of Justice General Ziobro, and Polish National Public Prosecutor Barski, regarding operational cooperation on Russian war crimes and illicit finance and to further discussions about how the U.S. can partner internationally on these issues.
In sum, this conference both signals our joint resolve that Russia’s invasion will not undermine our collective commitment to preserving a free and democratic world and charts the way forward for our practical work to achieve that goal.