2:02 p.m. EDT
MS PORTER: Good afternoon and Happy Friday, everyone. I have one update at the top, and then I’ll start with taking your questions. I would like to start off by addressing the missile strike by Russia’s forces that reportedly killed at least 50 civilians and injured many more at the Kramatorsk railway station in eastern Ukraine, where thousands of civilians were on a platform waiting to be evacuated. I want to express our deep condolences to the families of those killed or injured, and to the people of Ukraine who continue to suffer terribly from the Russian Government’s unprovoked, unjustified, and brutal war.
We are horrified by this latest atrocity, but we can no longer be surprised by the Kremlin’s repugnant disregard for human life. This is just yet another example of the Russian Government’s unjustified, brutal war sowing senseless death and destruction in Ukraine, and unraveling the fabric of normal life on schools, on homes, on hospitals, and on workplaces. Civilians are killed when they stay in their homes, and they’re killed when they tried to leave. Actions like these demonstrate why Russia did not belong on the UN Human Rights Council, and they also reinforced the U.S. assessment that members of Russian – Russia’s forces are committing war crimes in Ukraine.
This tragedy has also further increased our resolve to do everything we can to assist those investigating potential war crimes, see those responsible held accountable for atrocities, and support the people of Ukraine in their just cause: the defense of their country, their democracy, and their free and sovereign future.
Let’s first go to the line of Cindy Saine, please.
QUESTION: Yes, thank you. Jalina, Prime Minister – Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan just spoke to the nation, and he has renewed allegations that the U.S. encouraged the no-confidence vote, saying that he has a cable to prove it. Could you please comment? And thank you.
MS PORTER: Thanks, Cindy. Let me just say very bluntly there is absolutely no truth to these allegations. Of course, we continue to follow these developments, and we respect and support Pakistan’s constitutional process and rule of law. But again, these allegations are absolutely not true.
OPERATOR: And next we’ll go to the line of Endale Getahun with KETO FM International. Please, go ahead.
QUESTION: Thank you so much. Good morning. Good morning, everyone, and a Happy Friday. Thank you for taking my call. I am asking regarding the situation, as you know, that’s in East Africa, Ethiopia. I don’t know if you know, but there was – a meeting took place between the second in command on Ethiopian military and Eritrean. And so do you know any information or have you heard on – or do you want to comment on regarding the general who visited Eritrea with the state – given the statements on state media and Ethiopian TV that they are preparing to do a second phase there to invade Tigray, as we speak? Do you have any comment on that?
The second one I have: Have you seen the Human Rights and Amnesty International released about the (inaudible) was taken based on their statements, ethnic cleansing and what have you, on – for the neighboring state, for Amhara militants or vigilantes, and they were – and western Tigray, which is still occupied by Eritreans and by the – with the Amhara? So what is your comments on that statement and also on the general, the second in command in Ethiopia, that made the statements on they are heading to the second phase, even as there’s a ceasefire according to Ethiopian Government, and also on the human – that was my question, but if you have any comments on World Food Program. They’re still having issues for delivering food. Only 26 trucks head on to Tigray. What’s your comment on that too? And thank you so much, appreciate it.
MS PORTER: Thank you for all of those robust questions. I’ll do my best to give you an overview of what we have from here. I’ll just start off by saying that we certainly welcome the humanitarian truce in Tigray.
Second, to your question on the joint Human Rights report and Amnesty International report, we’re certainly aware of these reports on ethnically motivated atrocities committed by Amhara authorities in the western Tigray and in Ethiopia, and we also reiterate our grave concerns over findings in this report, which we will carefully review. In fact, we have some principals in the building, including Under Secretary Zeya, who is our Under Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy and Human Rights, along with our Ambassador-at-Large for Global Criminal Justice Beth Van Schaack, and a couple other principals in our department are actually meeting with representatives of Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International today to hear more about this report.
I’ll also say that the U.S. has consistently called out human rights abuses by all armed actors in this conflict, and we will continue to do this. Victims deserve justice, and those responsible for these abuses must be held accountable through transparent and inclusive processes.
Let’s please go to Laura Kelly.
QUESTION: Hi, Jalina. Thank you for taking my question. Secretary Blinken on I believe it was March 23rd said that the State Department determined the Russians had committed war crimes in Ukraine. When do you intend to release those assessments of specific determinations of war crimes?
MS PORTER: Thanks, Laura. Well, we certainly don’t have a timeline for this. But I’ll say that we continue to investigate Russia’s ongoing and unprovoked, unjustified war against Ukraine. But we have no – nothing to preview as far as timelines.
Let’s go to Eunjong Cho, please.
QUESTION: Thank you, Jalina, for taking my question. Can you hear me?
MS PORTER: Yes, I can hear you.
QUESTION: Great. The nominee for ambassador to South Korea, Ambassador Phillip Goldberg, at the Senate nomination hearing yesterday said comprehensive, verifiable, irreversible denuclearization are goals in – when it comes to North Korea. So is comprehensible, verifiable, irreversible denuclearization the Biden administration’s official term for describing the goal in negotiations with North Korea? Is the Biden administration officially replacing “complete” with “comprehensive” in defining this goal?
MS PORTER: Thanks for your question, Eunjong. We have no change – the Biden-Harris administration has no change in our policy, and we continue to urge the DPRK to refrain from further destabilizing activities and of course instead choose to engage in serious and sustained dialogue.
Let’s go over to Jenny Hansler.
QUESTION: Hi, Jalina. Thanks for calling on me. The Ukrainian foreign minister just called for Russia to be expelled from the OSCE, saying that if the OSCE lacks an appropriate suspension mechanism, then they should set up a process to get them out. Does the U.S. support suspending Russia from the OSCE or creating a mechanism to do so?
And then secondly, do you have an update on the American citizens detained in Russia? Thanks.
But what I will say about – to your second question, of course, is our top priority is and has always been the safety and the security of Americans overseas, and we continue to engage the Russian Government on cases of Americans who are currently detained.
Let’s go over to Conor Finnegan.
QUESTION: Hey, Jalina. Two questions on – just following up on what you said at the top about the strike on the train station in Kramatorsk. First, you said it reinforces the assessment that Russia is committing war crimes. Are you calling this strike a war crime?
And then second, you attributed it to Russia. The Kremlin has obviously denied responsibility. Just wondering if you will respond to their denial. Any more information you can provide on why you are attributing it to them? Thank you.
MS PORTER: Thanks, Conor. I’ll say, to your question on the war crime question, assessing individual criminal liability in specific cases is the responsibility of courts as well as other investigatory bodies. But as the Secretary, Secretary Blinken, has said, those responsible for war crimes and other atrocities committed in Ukraine will be held to account. We won’t make any public comments on our war crimes assessment of specific acts or reports, nor discuss any information that’s reviewed at this time.
And then to your second question on a response – yeah, we just don’t have a response to give at this time.
Let’s go over to Joseph Akbush.
QUESTION: Hi, Jalina. Thanks for this. Two questions. One, is there any comment on the two attacks which targeted U.S. servicemembers in Syria and Iraq over the last two days, I guess? And on that note, any updates to the Vienna talks?
And then my second question is on Ukraine. And are there still – is the U.S. still concerned about China providing military support to Russia or circumventing international sanctions? Thank you.
MS PORTER: Thanks, Joseph. So for your first question, I would have to refer you to the DOD. To your second question on any updates in – on the status of talks and Iran, we don’t have any updates to share at this time other than it’s obviously been a significant process, but an agreement is neither imminent nor certain at this time.
And to your last question on Chinese military to assist the Russians, I think we’ve been pretty clear on our stance when it comes to any support in this activity, and that hasn’t changed at this time.
Let’s take our last question from Elizabeth Hagedorn.
QUESTION: Hi, Jalina. One follow-up for you on Iran. Can you say whether the Biden administration shares General Milley’s view that the IRGC’s Qods Force specifically should remain on the U.S. list of terror organizations?
MS PORTER: Thanks, Elizabeth. I’d say that the President shares the chairman’s view that IRGC Qods Forces are terrorists, and beyond that we aren’t going to comment on any of the topics in the nuclear talks. But what I would say is out of the 107 Biden administration designations in relation to Iran, 86 have specifically targeted the IRGC-related persons as well as affiliates.
Thank you all so much for joining today. That concludes today’s press briefing, and I hope you have a good weekend ahead.
(The briefing was concluded at 2:19 p.m.)