Ukrainians hold placards in Kyiv, Ukraine, June 4, 2023, at an event dedicated to remembering children who died as a result of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Ukrainians hold placards in Kyiv, Ukraine, June 4, 2023, at an event dedicated to remembering children who died as a result of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. STR / NurPhoto via Getty Images

Pentagon Trains Ukrainian War-Crimes Prosecutors—As Lawmakers Press for More

Congress wants the Defense Department to send intel to the international court.

The Defense Department and other U.S. agencies are helping Ukraine identify Russian war crimes, a top Ukrainian prosecutor said—even as they resist pressure from Congress to release related intelligence to the International Criminal Court.

The aid is indirect, and comes largely in the form of efforts to train Ukrainian prosecutors to collect evidence for themselves, said Deputy Prosecutor General Oleksii Khomenko. Among the skills imparted by U.S. active duty and reserve troops is analyzing rocket impacts.

“We’ve visited the FBI, the Pentagon, and the Justice Department,” Khomenko added. 

But Congress is pressing the military to do more—specifically, to share evidence with the International Criminal Court, ICC, about Russia’s potential involvement in war crimes. Last week, Rep. Jason Crow, D-Colo., led a group of 23 Democrat and Republican representatives in encouraging the White House to do just that. 

That followed several months of reports that the Pentagon was preventing the release of information to the ICC. In March, the New York Times reported that Pentagon officials fear that sending such information would set a precedent that might someday ensnare U.S. troops. In May, the State Department’s ambassador-at-large for criminal justice confirmed that the Pentagon was holding up the transfer of information to the ICC. 

In response, Congress has pushed several times for the White House to move forward with providing Ukraine with more information. Rep. Crow’s June 6 letter followed a similar March 24 letter from senators, as well as Congressional hearings in which representatives complained of Pentagon resistance to sending intelligence to Ukraine. 

The ICC has already listed Russian leader Vladimir Putin as a suspect for Russia’s forcible deportation of Ukrainian children from Russian occupied territories.  

Russian troops have also targeted Ukrainian energy grids and robbed, sexually assaulted, tortured, or killed countless Ukrainian civilians and soldiers. Ukraine has already prosecuted and jailed some Russian soldiers convicted of war crimes. 

Amid many reports of individual Russian units committing human rights abuses, Khomenko said Russia’s officers, including its generals, are also implicated.

The destruction of the Nova Kakhovka dam, which has partially flooded the downstream city of Kherson, is among the newest topics that Ukrainian investigators are looking into, Khomenko added. 

Arsenii Fedosiuk, an Ukrainian soldier held by Russia for months after surrendering at the siege of Mariuopol, described his imprisonment on Wednesday. 

Once his jailers learned of his work as a sniper, Fedosiuk told reporters in Washington, D.C., they would beat him for up to seven hours a day to get him to sign documents incriminating others for imaginary crimes. In a telling detail, though, his torturers masked their faces, apparently afraid of being identified. 

Said Khomenko: “I think the majority of Russian soldiers understand they’re here illegally, and they’re carrying out illegal orders.”