David Miliband, President and CEO of the International Rescue Committee, on the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine – “The Takeout”

Evidence of possible war crimes in Ukraine is mounting – and fast – thanks to the proliferation of cell phones and other technologies such as drones, satellites and CCTV.

“This is a very well documented crisis. This was not done covertly. It was done in full view of Bellingcat satellites or the New York Times reporting the facts,” said David Miliband, CEO of the International Rescue Committee. “It’s the first cell phone war.”

Miliband, a former Labor Party politician and former British Foreign Secretary, met with Major Garrett, CBS News’ chief Washington correspondent, on The Takeout this week to discuss the war in Ukraine and the humanitarian crisis that is affecting the country triggered by the Russian invasion. Miliband identified three categories of people who are suffering from the weeks-long conflict so far: those who are still trapped in cities and cannot get help, like the citizens of Mariupol, those who have been displaced inside Ukraine, and those who are living in Neighboring countries outside Ukraine have fled.

He also criticized the US and its allies for being slow. They “should have taken literally and seriously the build-up that took place before February 24” when Russia launched its invasion. While Russia appears to have consolidated its forces and withdrawn from the area around Kyiv, the country’s capital, “a real threat remains,” he told Garrett.

The attack on civilian structures in Ukraine in recent weeks has raised allegations war crimes against Russia.

“If you are a soldier in a conflict, you have no right to life. But if you’re a civilian in a conflict, you have a right to life,” he told Garrett.

Highlights from this week’s episode with David Miliband:

  • War in Ukraine and Refugees: “There are three fronts of the humanitarian campaign in Ukraine and its environs. One is for civilians in cities under siege or in cities under shelling in the country’s south-east. Now 120,000 people are gone and a city has been without water, electricity or heating for six weeks. So also with bombing, but they are not the only ones. So, first of all, people who just six weeks ago were accountants or journalists or charity workers or housewives running their own lives have a tremendous need, and they have a tremendous need for health and food in the country, and that’s a lot harder to count because they do not cross a border. And there in our opinion it’s 3 million, I think in some estimates, 5 million and others… We call them internally displaced persons, that’s what they’re refugees in their own country… They’re The women and children, remember, because the men stay to fight. And so they are already going through the trauma of family separation. They don’t know if they will see their husbands, their fathers, their brothers again. They don’t know if they will see their own homes again, but they are moving to safer areas now. Obviously the course of the war over the last two weeks means some are starting to think about it or even go back. They are people traveling in their own country. You need financial support. You need trauma support. You need health support. And then the third group, technically you come there, the refugees themselves… Yesterday the UN High Commissioner for Refugees actually crossed a border with 4.3 million people, mainly Poland, but also Moldova, Hungary. They came to Europe as refugees, people for whom it is not safe to return to their homeland. And this is the third front of the crisis. These are people who are safe, so they don’t need, unquoted quote, protected from bombs. But they have enormous needs. They have no idea where their future will be. They need support for their children. They may have medical needs.”

  • war in Ukraine: “I think Ukraine is an event that will happen over weeks but will reverberate for decades. So I think you’re right in emphasizing both the extreme humanitarian need right away and geopolitics, because this is about Europe, but it’s also about America. It’s about the West. It’s about international law. And it’s about the increase in impunity that is the hallmark of the war zones where the International Rescue Committee works. The people fighting in the struggle, both countries, but also non-state actors, are acting without accountability beyond the law… That’s what this argument is about, about how to manage international relations, but also how to deal with this interconnected world, in which we live.”

  • imminent threat: “We should have taken literally and seriously the build-up that took place before February 24, as the secret services correctly predicted in this case and the Russian government denied. They refused every suggestion. I mean, Sergey Lavrov was my foreign counterpart minister. He absolutely bluntly denied that there was any intent to invade. So the fact that the troops will be there, the fact that they will consolidate means that the threat remains. But remember, they also have the experience of this in the last five or six weeks, and that means they will carefully consolidate before taking any pre-emptive steps… Ukraine was effectively surrounded and the fact that Belarus was in the north should be so strong in the Russian sphere, and the fact that the south is still under Russian control from Crimea means there is a real danger. And so, in my opinion, the military dynamic is very open.”

  • Social media is putting more of the war on the record: “This is a very well documented crisis. This was not done covertly. It was done in full view of Bellingcat satellites or the New York Times reporting the facts and they can tell you where the bodies turned up on the streets. And they can document that… It’s the first cell phone war.”

  • What is a war crime? “International law guarantees the right to life of civilians in a conflict. If you are a soldier in a conflict, you have no right to life. But if you are a civilian in a conflict, you have a right to life… And it is the responsibility of combatants in war to uphold that right to life. And what international law shows is that gross violations of international law constitute war crimes. So if you bomb a hospital, that’s a war crime. Because there are civilians in there… And a lot of times there’s dancing around it, sometimes countries say, “Well, the civilians were in what was next to the soldiers. So we tried to kill the soldiers, and we end up killing citizens. ” This is not an excuse, because the requirement of international law is absolute.”

Executive Producer: Arden Farhi

Producers: Jamie Benson, Jacob Rosen, Sara Cook and Eleanor Watson

CBSN Production: Eric Soussanin
View email: TakeoutPodcast@cbsnews.com
Twitter: @TakeoutPodcast
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