Wednesday, October 12, 2022

Washington, DC

ERIN BURNETT: OutFront now Samantha Power, the Administrator for the U.S. Agency for International Development and also the former U.S. Ambassador to the UN. And I know that she just returned from her latest trip to Ukraine. Ambassador, I know you saw evidence of war crimes on your trip. Can you tell me more about what you saw?

ADMINISTRATOR POWER: Well, I think most of your viewers have seen evidence of war crimes as well – just the images from both the places from which Russia has receded, where mass grave after mass grave with people with their hands tied – children, women, elderly, you know – left for dead, often having been tortured. 

What I saw in downtown Kyiv were the remnants of attacks on civilian infrastructure along the lines of what Chairman Milley was just talking about. We visited a school, 189 doors of which had been blown off by a shell that landed nearby, right at the beginning of the war back in February. Little did I know that a couple days later, having departed that area, that Russia would again be raining down missiles on the capital city. Although, of course, that was always – it's always a weapon in Putin's toolkit – terrorizing the capital, terrorizing civilians centers that we have grown accustomed to. 

So what we're doing is helping Ukrainians simultaneously fight the war, as you know. But also USAID’s efforts are aimed at repairing those schools, those pipes because the most salient thing that I saw on the ground in Kyiv – in the capital – is that Ukrainians are getting on with it. They're getting on with moving – moving farm machinery that might have once been in territory that's now occupied – you know, to the western part of the country so that they can plant seeds and harvest seeds. They're getting on with that school I mentioned that had to be closed down because of the missile fire back in the early part of the war. They were opening it next week, in fact, because of the repairs that have been made. It had been used, in the meantime, as a bomb shelter. Now it's going to be a schoolroom for 1500 students, and that's the spirit of the people of Ukraine and it's just so awed us all.

MS. BURNETT: It really has. And I've been seeing those schools with children going to school even you know, right after the Russians left and the bombed out schools and the windows blown out, they were going back it was. It was heartbreaking and yet empowering to see it. Do you have a sense, Ambassador, of who's committing all of these war crimes. When you see the mass graves, that you've actually seen? Is this rank and file soldiers or is this being done by – at the behest of military leadership for Russia?

ADMINISTRATOR POWER: Well, I think Erin, all of that is going to be very well documented over time. And the Ukrainians are doing a tremendous job on the ground, not only gathering the forensic evidence, the heartbreaking searing forensic evidence from these mass graves, not only gathering testimonies, from survivors of torture or an indeed Ukrainian prisoners of war who had been released or, you know, sort of describing the most ghastly experiences they had in Russian custody. 

There's all of that and all of their memories about who perpetrated these crimes. But also Russian prisoners of war, are being debriefed about who gave them the orders and all of that has been documented. There's an International Criminal Court investigation that's being opened. The Human Rights Council is gathering this evidence. So, all I can say is that, there's no question that when you see a pattern of war crimes committed so consistently, across the territory, this is not the work of uncontrolled elements. This is top-down order, top-down command.

MS. BURNETT: So Ambassador, the Washington Post recently reported that a member of Putin's inner circle confronted him over his handling of the war. Now this is according to U.S. intelligence. We don't know whether this person wanted him to ramp it up or not. Right. So we just know that there was this confrontation but you, in your role, as UN Ambassador had interactions with many members of the inner circle, including Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, and I'm just showing a picture of you with him right now. Do you think Lavrov, Ambassador, or anyone will stand up to Putin on using nuclear weapons or that Putin could be in danger of seeing any crumbling in his inner circle?

ADMINISTRATOR POWER: Well, what happens in the Russian inner circle is not something that I'm going to speculate on. But, what I can say is that we see the entire world standing up to Vladimir Putin. And indeed today, this very day, we have seen an unprecedented vote count at the UN that Foreign Minister Lavrov and President Putin could never have anticipated when they launched this invasion. 143 countries – the largest number of countries voting in opposition to what Russia has done. Only five countries standing with Russia, the usual suspects. 

But countries like Senegal, Angola, Madagascar, countries that had abstained and wanted to duck taking a strong position, you know, just not wanting to get on the wrong side, let's say of the Russian Federation, given all of the intimidation that goes on behind the scenes, today just saying enough is enough. And making clear that Ukraine's borders will not change. That Luhansk is Ukraine. That Donetsk is Ukraine. That the fact that there is a temporary occupation here does not mean that Russia gets to do these full referendums and try to ratify its maneuvers. So again, we're focusing on that large coalition and one of the strengths that has really in addition to the bravery of Ukrainians that we've spoken about having so many countries coming together to support Ukraine in its hour of need has made a huge difference. 

MS. BURNETT: Ambassador, thank you very much. I appreciate your time. 


Samantha Power USAID Response in Ukraine Video Library
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