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Esper on Putin’s war crimes: ‘There needs to be a reckoning’

(NewsNation) — Ukraine’s top prosecutor said nearly 80,000 cases of war crimes have been registered in Ukraine since the war began in February 2022.

Former Secretary of Defense Mark Esper joined “Elizabeth Vargas Reports” to discuss holding Russian President Vladimir Putin accountable for war crimes committed in Ukraine.

“We have to continue to account for these war crimes,” Esper said. “Gather evidence as we can across the battlefield and Ukrainian cities, talking to Ukrainian victims and survivors and doing all those things, because at some point, this war will end and there needs to be a reckoning and people need to be held accountable to history for what has happened in that country.”

Prosecutor General Andriy Kostin described for U.S. lawmakers examples of war atrocities that he says are deliberately orchestrated by Russian forces to sow terror among civilians.

The House Foreign Affairs Committee invited Kostin to testify.

The chairman, Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, said that one of the reasons he held the hearing was to convince members of his own caucus not to cut funding to Ukraine.

A real divide currently exists in the Republican Party on the issue of funding aid to Ukraine.

“There are a few members on the GOP side, I think it’s a small minority, that think we shouldn’t be there. We shouldn’t be helping the Ukrainians, we should be focused elsewhere,” Esper said. “And I think that’s an incorrect view.”

“We need to help Ukraine win this war,” Esper continued. “And there are a number of things we need to do there and continue to do, such as providing arms and ammunition and assistance.”

Congress approved about $113 billion in economic, humanitarian and military spending in 2022 to assist Ukraine. President Joe Biden has repeatedly said the United States will help Ukraine “as long as it takes” to repel the Russian invasion, though support for that aid has softened, polling shows.

“If the United States isn’t there, if we don’t lead, I fear that the Western support will fall apart,” Esper said “United States leadership is critical.”

Watch the full interview with Mark Esper in the video player at the top of the page.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.