Rep. Chris Smith to Newsmax: Commission Gathering Evidence on Putin, Russia

Rep. Chris Smith to Newsmax: Commission Gathering Evidence on Putin, Russia

Russia’s war against Ukraine is a “crime of aggression,” and it is “absolutely certain” that President Vladimir Putin and his military have committed war crimes, Rep. Chris Smith said Tuesday on Newsmax.

Smith, who co-chairs the House Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, spoke before the group started a virtual hearing to gather evidence against the Russian leader. 

“I mean, how many buildings can be destroyed with people in them, innocent civilians?” Smith, R-N.J., said on Newsmax’s “National Report,” pointing out that Putin’s “war of aggression” was not provoked by Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy or his country, but Putin still amassed more than 200,000 troops, fighter planes, missiles, and more to stage the invasion. 

He stressed that the U.S. “cannot fail to hold Putin to account for his outrageous violent behavior.”

“We know now there are even troops that appear to be raping Ukrainian women,” Smith added. “The evidence has to be gathered. I have David Crane, the former prosecutor of the Sierra Leone war crimes tribunal. He’s my chief witness in my hearing today.”

The hearing is being held to explore options against Russia and Putin, and Smith said he is concerned about what could happen to Putin if action isn’t taken against him.

There is also the possibility that Russia or even China could lead a veto of war crimes measures taken up by the United Nations Security Council, which means the House committee has an “engraved invitation to hold Putin and others accountable,” Smith said. 

Already, the International Criminal Court, the International Court of Justice, the European Court of Human Rights, and the U.N. Human Rights Council have opened investigations into Russia’s actions against Ukraine, following demands from Ukraine’s government and the international community. 

Smith said Tuesday he’s also introduced a bill to “try to accelerate” the efforts to hold Putin accountable, which “puts the crosshairs on Putin that he needs to be held accountable and he needs to spend the rest of his life behind bars.”

Meanwhile, Smith said he supports President Joe Biden’s decision to ban Russian oil, but he is concerned that the president has made the United States energy dependent with his moves against the Keystone XL pipeline and drilling on federal properties. 

“The pipeline was one of his most egregious failures,” Smith said. “We went from being energy independent to energy-dependent under Biden in less than a year, which is outrageous. We need to become energy independent and open up our opportunities here in the United States.”

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