WASHINGTON: US attorney-general Merrick Garland made a surprise visit to Ukraine on Friday to attend a conference on justice and war crimes, a Justice Department official said.
Garland went to Lviv in western Ukraine at the invitation of his Ukrainian counterpart to take part in the “United for Justice Conference”, the official said.
“The attorney-general held several meetings and reaffirmed our determination to hold Russia accountable for crimes committed in its unjust and unprovoked invasion against its sovereign neighbour,” the official said.
The visit, Garland’s second to Ukraine since the start of the conflict in February 2022, was not announced ahead of time for security reasons.
It comes nearly two weeks after US president Joe Biden paid a visit to Ukraine and met with President Volodymyr Zelensky.
The US is helping Ukraine investigate war crimes and Garland this week branded Yevgeny Prigozhin, head of Russia’s mercenary Wagner military force, a war criminal.
In a statement issued on Feb 24 to mark the first anniversary of the Russian invasion, Garland said his department is “standing with our Ukrainian partners in pursuit of justice.”
He said American prosecutors “are working closer than ever before with our Ukrainian counterparts to investigate specific crimes committed by Russian forces, including attacks on civilian targets.”
US vice-president Kamala Harris accused Russia last month of committing “crimes against humanity” in Ukraine, saying Moscow’s forces had conducted “widespread and systemic” attacks on the country’s civilian population.