Durbin Statement Following Ukraine President Zelensky’s Address To A Joint Session Of Congress

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Co-Chair of the Senate Ukraine Caucus, released the following statement after Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky addressed a joint session of Congress:

“For ten months, the Ukrainian people have put up a valiant fight against Russia’s renewed aggressionand that few thought they could win, but here they are, still standing. That is in part due to President Zelensky’s tireless leadership and courageous fight for his country. In fact, just earlier this week, President Zelensky was at the front lines of this war fighting alongside his fellow Ukrainians in Bakhmut.

“Today’s address called on Congress to do everything we can to provide the Ukrainian people with additional aid to fight back against Putin. And Congress is doing just that – we are about to pass an omnibus that contains necessary funds forour Ukrainian allies. I’m also thrilled that just this morning, my Justice for Victims of War Crimes Act passed the Senate to hold Putin’s henchmen responsible for the unspeakable atrocities committed in Ukraine.”

The Fiscal Year 2023 (FY23) Omnibus Appropriations Act includes $45 billion inemergency aid for Ukraine and NATO allies amid Russia's ongoing invasion. 

This morning, Durbin and Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Chair and Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, bipartisan legislation, Justice for Victims of War Crimes Act, passed the Senate unanimously. The legislation updates the current war crimes statute to enable prosecution of war criminals in the United States regardless of the location or targets of their atrocities. The bill also extends the statute of limitations for war crimes discovered years after they occur. 

Current law allows for the prosecution of people who commit war crimes in the United States or abroad but only if the victim or perpetrator is a U.S. national or servicemember. Violators who target non-Americans are not subject to the law even after they enter the United States. The Justice for Victims of War Crimes Act expands the original war crimes jurisdiction to include war criminals found in the United States.

Bill text for the Justice for Victims of War Crimes Act is available here. This legislation comes in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine to send a clear message that war criminals from any country are not welcome in the United States.

In September, Durbin, Co-Chair of the Senate Ukraine Caucus, hosted Ukrainian Prosecutor General Andriy Kostin to receive an update on Putin’s unprovoked war in Ukraine, and specifically on reports of war crimes and crimes against humanity by Russians. Earlier this month, Durbin hosted members of the Ukrainian Parliament to discuss calls for a special tribunal to hold Russian leaders accountable for the crime of aggression.