Washington — Attorney General Merrick Garland made an unannounced visit to Ukraine on Friday, a Justice Department official said, his second trip to the country since Russia invaded more than a year ago.
Garland is the second U.S. Cabinet secretary to visit Ukraine this week, following Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen’s travel on Monday. President Biden made his own trip to Kyiv to mark one year since Russia’s invasion last week.
Garland attended a United for Justice Conference in Lviv alongside President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and international partners at the invitation of Ukrainian Prosecutor General Andriy Kostin, the Justice Department official said. While there, he reaffirmed the United States’ determination to hold Russia accountable for crimes committed during the invasion, the official said.
“We are here today in Ukraine to speak clearly, and with one voice: the perpetrators of those crimes will not get away with them,” Garland said in remarks. “In addition to our work in partnership with Ukraine and the international community, the United States has also opened criminal investigations into war crimes in Ukraine that may violate U.S. law. Although we are still building our cases, interviewing witnesses, and collecting evidence, we have already identified specific suspects. Our prosecutors are working day and night to bring them to justice as quickly as possible.”
The trip follows a meeting last month between the prosecutor general and Garland in Washington, D.C. The Justice Department is assisting in the investigation of alleged war crimes committed by Russia, and has seized the property of Russian oligarchs who are subject to U.S. and European sanctions.
“American and Ukrainian prosecutors are working together and working closer than ever before in our investigation into Russian war crimes,” Garland said on Feb. 3. “We are working to identify not only individuals who carried out these attacks, but those who ordered them.”
Garland also said the Justice Department had powers authorized by Congress to prosecute suspected war criminals in the U.S., vowing that “Russian war criminals will find no refuge in the United States.” The attorney general reiterated those sentiments when testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday.
Yellen was in Ukraine earlier this week to underscore the U.S. commitment to the country and highlight economic assistance to Zelenskyy’s government. During his visit, Mr. Biden made a surprise visit to the Ukrainian capital and walked the streets with Zelenskyy before giving a speech in Poland.
“Kyiv stands strong. Kyiv stands proud. It stands tall. And most important, it stands free,” Mr. Biden said in Warsaw.
Robert Legare contributed to this report.
Caitlin Yilek is a politics reporter for CBS News Digital. Reach her at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter: https://twitter.com/hausofcait