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Ranking Member Risch Opening Statement at Hearing on Accountability for Russian Atrocities in Ukraine

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Jim Risch (R-Idaho), ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, today gave the following opening remarks at a full committee hearing on accountability for Russian atrocities in Ukraine. The witness was The Honorable Beth Van Schaack, ambassador-at-large for global criminal justice at the Department of State.

Ranking Member Risch gave the following remarks:

“Thank you, Mr. Chairman. To start with, let me say for the record that I’m in absolute full agreement with the remarks that the chairman made in his opening statement on all the subjects that he covered.

“I’m glad we are discussing this important subject today. I wish we would have had time for a Ukrainian witness who could testify to the horrors, although that’s all been publicized. I understand time is always an issue, and like the chairman, I would’ve liked to have someone from the Department of Defense talk to us about why they think they don’t have to comply with the laws we’ve passed. It doesn’t make sense. We’re not done with that yet – I’m sure they know that.

“The atrocities Putin has committed in Ukraine very quickly rose to the level of genocide after Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. In fact, this committee passed my resolution last Congress labeling the despicable crimes against Ukrainians as such.

“Russian forces have deliberately targeted civilians and civilian infrastructure in their campaign to erase Ukraine off the map. One of the most egregious and blatant crimes was the Russian bombing of a maternity hospital in Mariupol last March. Countless civilians have been killed in their own beds. 

“The international community must remain steadfast in documenting and prosecuting Putin’s war crimes. The vast range of these crimes requires a multi-prong response with a variety of jurisdictions to cover every aggressor – from the master planers to the foot soldiers.

“I welcomed the ICC’s recent decision to issue arrest warrants for Putin and the Russian Commissioner for Children’s Rights for their despicable roles in the deportation of hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians to Russia, in particular children.

“The filtration camps, where Russia is detaining, interrogating, and torturing Ukrainian citizens before transferring them into Russia, are particularly depraved as Russians steal Ukrainian children away from their families by the thousands.

“Beyond the ICC’s work, the Office of the Ukrainian Prosecutor General has recorded over 85,000 potential war crimes, as the chairman noted. It is important that Ukraine exercises its jurisdiction over crimes it can prosecute domestically.

“I am proud that the United States has provided essential assistance for the documentation of war crimes. This committee is going to see that that is enforced in our oversight capacity. We cannot allow Putin and his cronies to get away with the vicious crimes they are committing. Impunity is not an option.

“I look forward to hearing from you, ambassador, on the different avenues to pursue justice, as well as what else the United States can be doing to increase its support for accountability for the Ukrainian people.

“Thank you, Mr. Chairman.”

These remarks have been lightly edited for clarity. Witness testimony is available on