Kerry calls for war crimes in­quiry

U.S. blasts Rus­sia on Syr­ian at­tacks, hack­ing of DNC

Baltimore Sun - - NATION & WORLD - By Tracy Wilkin­son and Del Quentin Wil­ber

WASH­ING­TON — Ac­ri­mony be­tween Wash­ing­ton and Moscow heated up even fur­ther Fri­day as Sec­re­tary of State John Kerry called for Rus­sia to be in­ves­ti­gated for war crimes be­cause of its bom­bard­ment of civil­ians in Syria, and the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion pub­licly ac­cused Vladimir Putin’s govern­ment of com­puter hack­ing that was “in­tended to in­ter­fere with the U.S. elec­tion.”

To­gether, the state­ments marked an­other sign that U.S.-Rus­sia re­la­tions are spi­ral­ing down­ward to­ward an en­mity not seen since the Cold War.

Kerry, us­ing some of his tough­est lan­guage to date, cited an­other bomb­ing overnight of a Syr­ian hos­pi­tal that he said had killed 20 peo­ple and wounded more than 100.

He blamed the Rus­si­abacked govern­ment of Syr­ian Pres­i­dent Bashar As­sad; the two al­lies have been pound­ing rebel-con­trolled sec­tions of Aleppo, Syria’s largest city, for days, scut- tling Kerry’s ef­forts to im­pose a cease-fire.

“These are acts that beg for an ap­pro­pri­ate in­ves­ti­ga­tion of war crimes. And those who com­mit these would and should be held ac­count­able for these ac­tions,” Kerry said ahead of a meet­ing with his French coun­ter­part, Jean-Marc Ayrault.

“They’re be­yond the ac­ci­den­tal now — way be­yond. Years be­yond the ac­ci­den­tal,” Kerry added.

Rus­sia and Syria are us­ing “a tar­geted strat­egy to ter­ror­ize civil­ians and to kill any­body and ev­ery­body who is in the way of their mil­i­tary ob­jec­tives,” he said.

Kerry’s com­ments — and an an­gry re­tort from Moscow — are the lat­est in a ratch­et­ing up of hos­tile threats and coun­terthreats be­tween the two pow­ers.

At last month’s U.N. Gen­eral As­sem­bly, U.S. am­bas­sador to the U.N., Sa­man­tha Power, pub­licly ac­cused Rus­sia of “bar­barism.”

Ear­lier this week, the U.S. sus­pended bi­lat­eral co­op­er­a­tion with Rus­sia over Syria be­cause of what Kerry said was Moscow’s re­fusal to heed a cease-fire and in­stead re­lent­lessly at­tack civil­ians.

Putin, at the same time, with­drew Rus­sia from a key nu­clear pact it had signed with Wash­ing­ton more than Sec­re­tary of State John Kerry said Rus­sia and Syria are us­ing “a tar­geted strat­egy to ter­ror­ize civil­ians and to kill any­body ... who is in the way of their mil­i­tary ob­jec­tives.” a decade ago.

Putin has re­peat­edly flexed his mil­i­tary mus­cle in the Mid­dle East in an at­tempt to re­gain a dom­i­nant role in the re­gion — while warn­ing the U.S. not to at­tack As­sad’s mil­i­tary or face con­se­quences.

Re­spond­ing to Kerry’s lat­est com­ments about a war crimes in­ves­ti­ga­tion, Rus­sia said that the U.S. was sim­ply try­ing to dis­tract from its own fail­ures in the re­gion.

“It is very dan­ger­ous to play with such words be­cause war crimes also weigh on the shoul­ders of Amer­i­can of­fi­cials,” Rus­sian news agen­cies quoted For­eign Min­istry spokeswom- an Maria Zakharova as say­ing

Kerry and Ayrault dis­cussed a draft res­o­lu­tion France hopes to bring for­ward at an emer­gency United Na­tions Se­cu­rity Coun­cil meet­ing over the week­end. The res­o­lu­tion calls for an im­me­di­ate halt­ing to the bomb­ing of Aleppo and the free pas­sage of hu­man­i­tar­ian aid to be­sieged en­claves. Rus­sia has al­ready la­beled the draft “un­ac­cept­able” and will likely veto it.

“To­mor­row will be a mo­ment of truth … for all the mem­bers of the Se­cu­rity Coun­cil,” Ayrault said, speak­ing through an in­ter­preter, along­side Kerry.

“Do you, yes or no, want a cease-fire in Aleppo? And the ques­tion is in par­tic­u­lar for our Rus­sian part­ners.”

Kerry and the Rus­sian for­eign min­is­ter, Sergey Lavrov, agreed to a par­tial cease-fire last month, but it quickly fell apart.

It would have in­cluded new mil­i­tary co­op­er­a­tion be­tween the two na­tions in tar­get­ing ter­ror­ist groups.

That is off the ta­ble now, and the State De­part­ment says “all other options” are un­der con­sid­er­a­tion.

The U.S. has re­peat­edly ac­cused Moscow and Da­m­as­cus of “in­dis­crim­i­nate” bomb­ing of civil­ian tar­gets, while Rus­sia claims it is tar­get­ing only “ter­ror­ists.”

Rus­sia also claims the U.S. has failed to up­hold its part of the bar­gain, which in­cluded at­tempt­ing to sep­a­rate ji­hadi fac­tions, in­clud­ing the al-Qaida af­fil­i­ate in Syria, from more mod­er­ate rebel groups that the U.S. backs.

Sep­a­rately, the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cially blamed the Rus­sian govern­ment for at­tempt­ing to in­ter­fere in the U.S. elec­tion by hack­ing com­put­ers used by po­lit­i­cal groups, in­clud­ing the Demo­cratic Na­tional Com­mit­tee.

In a state­ment, the U.S. in­tel­li­gence com­mu­nity and the De­part­ment of Home­land Se­cu­rity for the first time pub­licly said they were “con­fi­dent that the Rus­sian govern­ment di­rected the re­cent com­pro­mises of emails from U.S. per­sons and in­sti­tu­tions, in­clud­ing from U.S. po­lit­i­cal or­ga­ni­za­tions.”

The goal of “these thefts and dis­clo­sures are in­tended to in­ter­fere with the U.S. elec­tion process,” the state­ment said.

The DNC is not iden­ti­fied in the state­ment, but a U.S. of­fi­cial con­firmed it was one of the vic­tims tar­geted by the Rus­sian govern­ment.

The as­sess­ment also de­ter­mined that only “Rus­sia’s se­nior-most of­fi­cials could have au­tho­rized these ac­tiv­i­ties ... based on the scope and sen­si­tiv­ity of these ef­forts.”

Pre­vi­ously, in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cials had pri­vately blamed Rus­sia, but would not say so openly.

The DNCdis­closed it had been hacked in June, and a large num­ber of in­ter­nal emails soon were pub­lished on the web­site of Wik­iLeaks. The FBI con­firmed in July that it was in­ves­ti­gat­ing the in­tru­sion.

The Clin­ton cam­paign has said that “an an­a­lyt­ics data pro­gram main­tained by the DNC, and used by our cam­paign and a num­ber of other en­ti­ties, was ac­cessed as part of the DNC hack.”

JA­SON DECROW/AP

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