- National security advisor Jake Sullivan said that Russia’s violence against Ukrainian civilians was “planned.”
- Russia has been accused of war crimes as it continues its invasion of Ukraine.
- Before the war began, US officials warned that Russia had lists of political opponents to arrest or assassinate.
US national security advisor Jake Sullivan said Russia’s violence against Ukrainian civilians was “planned.”
His comments come after footage from Bucha began circulating in early April and appeared to show bodies lying in the streets and indiscriminate killings of civilians.
“The images that we’ve seen out of Bucha and other cities have been tragic. They’ve been horrifying. They’ve been downright shocking, but they have not been surprising,” Sullivan said on ABC News “This Week” on Sunday.
“We, in fact, before the war began, declassified intelligence and presented it indicating that there was a plan from the highest levels of the Russian government to target civilians who oppose the invasion, to cause violence against them, to organize efforts to brutalize them in order to try to terrorize the population and subjugate it,” he added. “So this is something that was planned.”
—This Week (@ThisWeekABC) April 10, 2022
In a recent visit to Bucha, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy described a scene of only “death” as the bodies of hundreds of civilians were found following Russia’s withdrawal from the area.
Russian officials have claimed the massacre of civilians in Bucha was a hoax meant to frame the Russian military, but experts have said Russia’s claims fall apart under scrutiny.
Sullivan said on Sunday that it’s possible that Russian soldiers and military units became “frustrated because the Ukrainians were beating them back.”
“They had been told they were going to have a glorious victory and just ride into Kyiv without any opposition with the Ukrainians welcoming them,” Sullivan said. “And when that didn’t happen, I do think some of these units engaged in these acts of brutality, these atrocities, these war crimes even without direction from above.”
Still, Sullivan said the responsibility for the crimes lies with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“But make no mistake, the larger issue of broad-scale war crimes and atrocities in Ukraine lies at the feet of the Kremlin and lies at the feet of the Russian president,” Sullivan said.
In an interview on Friday, Zelenskyy said he had heard reports of Russian kill lists but did not have proof. The lists “supposedly existed in large cities like Cherson, where they were afraid of people who connected with each other and gathered in public places to demonstrate against the occupants,” Zelenskyy said.
In a separate interview on Sunday, Sullivan said that the US envisions a future with an “independent” Ukraine and an “isolated” Russia.