US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Friday that Russia was behaving “horrifically” and was likely responsible for war crimes after the discovery of mass graves in Ukraine and hailed what he saw as pressure on Moscow from China and India.
“This is part, horrifically,” Blinken told reporters, “of an ongoing story whenever we see the Russian tide recede from the parts of Ukraine that it’s occupied.”
“We see what’s left in his wake. And this latest discovery of apparently 440 mass graves in Izyum is a reminder of that,” he said, referring to the eastern city where Ukrainian forces have driven out Russian invaders.
Blinken called on Ukrainians to maintain evidence to document atrocities, saying, “There needs to be accountability.”
“In many instances, these will amount to war crimes, which I think is the appropriate frame through which to look at this,” Blinken said.
Blinken also welcomed what he called growing pressure on President Vladimir Putin who met the leaders of China and India at a regional meeting in the Uzbek city of Samarkand.
“I think what you’re hearing from China, from India, is reflective of concerns around the world about the effects of Russia’s aggression on Ukraine, not just on the people of Ukraine,” said Blinken, speaking alongside Jordan’s foreign minister.
“I think it increases the pressure on Russia to end the aggression.”
Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India, a historic partner of Russia which has growing ties with the United States, told Putin on Friday that it was “not a time for war.”
A day earlier, Putin raised eyebrows by noting the “concerns” of Chinese President Xi Jinping, seen as Russia’s most powerful ally on the global stage.
US officials say that China’s support for Moscow has been mostly rhetorical and that Beijing has rebuffed requests for military equipment, forcing Moscow to turn to North Korea and Iran.
Blinken last week met with Ukrainians documenting abuses as he toured Irpin on the capital Kyiv’s outskirts where he was told of indiscriminate attacks during Russia’s 25-day occupation at the start of the war.
But Blinken repeated President Joe Biden’s view against designating Russia to be a state sponsor of terrorism, a major step that has been sought by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and US lawmakers across party lines.
Blinken said that the terrorism designation could have “unintended consequences.” US officials have previously voiced worry that it could stop shipments of grain from Ukraine’s ports under a deal brokered with Russia by the United Nations an Turkey.
He said that, even without the designation, Western sanctions were already “having a profound impact on Russia, one that is growing every single day.”
“It’s going to get to be a heavier and heavier burden.”