The following is a transcript of an interview with Andriy Kostin, the prosecutor general of Ukraine, that aired Sunday, Sept. 18, 2022, on “Face the Nation.”
MARGARET BRENNAN: Welcome back to Face The Nation. We are joined now by Andriy Kostin, the Prosecutor General of Ukraine. Good morning, and thank you for being here.
PROSECUTOR GENERAL OF UKRAINE ANDRIY KOSTIN: Good morning.
MARGARET BRENNAN: We just saw our correspondent show some pretty horrific images of what is happening in your country, you keep a database of possible war crimes, you have more than 30,000 documented, how do you begin to sort through them and prioritize?
KOSTIN: First of all, at the moment, we have fixed 34,000 war crimes in Ukraine. When we are talking about prioritization, of course, the cases, like we see today, and yesterday and days before, of war crimes committed in Kharkiv region, including the Izium, of course, such cases are our priority. Nevertheless, we have a lot of cases, which are still ongoing, which started in places like Bucha, and Irpin. And all of them shelling and destroying of all of civil objects in Ukraine are also fixed, and then are also investigated. So what we see now is, of course, the horrible amount of potential war crimes committed by Russian aggressor. I would like to say even that, what we see now is a system of Russian aggressor, what they do on the occupied territory. And it seems that for me that whenever Russian army comes, they turn this place into new Bucha, as we see in Izium.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Your president was on this program in the spring, in the wake of Bucha, where it was horrific, the images. He called that genocide? Are you seeing evidence of genocide? Can you bring that case to a court?
KOSTIN: We have a case on genocide in the Office of the Prosecutor General. And we are in all the time in communication with international criminal court and Prosecutor Khan, because the International Criminal Court has also the authority to to look at the genocide case. So we understand that all of these facts put together will lead us to possible a conviction in Crime of Genocide.
MARGARET BRENNAN: No sitting leader has ever been prosecuted for genocide. Can you actually prove that Vladimir Putin authorized or knew all of what was happening under the command of his military?
KOSTIN: Of course, it’s not an easy way to prove the- this system of command to responsibility from the highest level, what we understand at the moment, that the crime of aggression is definitely we know who is responsible for it, because the crime of aggression is the mother of all of these crimes, of war crimes genocide, because without aggression, there will be no other war crimes. And for that reason for the crime of aggression, the highest politically and military leadership should be prosecuted and should be punished.
MARGARET BRENNAN: This past week, the United States sanctioned the Presidential Commissioner for children’s rights. This is an odd title, given what she’s accused of, who has overseen the taking of children and forcing them into Russia. Your ambassador has put that number at 91,000. There are reports that Secretary Blinken has cited that puts that number at 260,000 children taken from their families, how many of these kids can be returned? And can you prove that this is part of this pattern you’re talking about of genocide and intent to destroy?
KOSTIN: We definitely understand that the kidnapping and forcibly moving of our children of the future of Ukrainian nation forcibly- forcibly sent to Russia is, of course, from my point of view, is an element of potential genocide. I will tell you that at the moment, we have more than 50 children, only 50, 53, 55 children returned to Ukraine. Some of them now are in a safe place in Europe. But the number which we, in the office of Prosecutor General, have is thousands and thousands of children. For which we have exact evidence that they were kidnapped and forcibly sent to Russia. We- we identified now more than 5,500 children were kidnapped and sent to Russia because we in our office, we need to identify definitely.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Okay. An- and the United States has now pointed that figure- finger, excuse me, right at the Kremlin, I want to ask you about sex crimes and sexual assault and rape. There have been some horrific accounts, women chained in basements, children who were attacked, I don’t even want to recite half of what I read yesterday. Is rape, a deliberate act of subjugation being used by Russia?
KOSTIN: We saw it in Bucha. We know that these cases were in Kharkiv region, which is now deliberated. We have evidences of, of these cases, the most important is to find out proper evidences and to fix them properly. What- what I did- what I did at the moment now, I created a special unit in the prosecutor office General for the sexual violence crimes. And we have a specific team of prosecutors who are well trained for this category of crimes. The- it’s important for us to communicate with people and to find out these cases in order for the victims of these cases to report about them. And for this reason, we also are in close contact with our colleagues in European countries where a lot of people who- Ukrainians who fled to Europe, some of them could be victims, or witnesses of sexual violence crimes. And we are now communicating trying to find also these cases, no- in the office of Prosecutor General, we have now more than 40 ongoing investigations on cases where we definitely know that the crime of sexual violence was committed by Russian aggressors.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Sir, thank you for your time today, Mr. Prosecutor General–
KOSTIN: Thank you.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Good luck to you. We’ll be right back.