Russian forces are operating with “reckless disregard” for civilians as they face stronger-than-expected resistance in Ukraine, and American intelligence agencies are tracking their actions to hold them to account, U.S. Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines said on Thursday.
“The Russian military has begun to loosen its rules of engagement to achieve their military objectives,” Haines told the Senate Intelligence Committee’s annual hearing on worldwide threats to U.S. security.
Haines, a Cabinet-level official who heads the U.S. intelligence agencies, said intelligence officers were documenting Russia’s actions in order to hold to account both the government in Moscow and individuals responsible for assaults on civilians.
“Russian forces are, at the very least, operating with reckless disregard for the safety of civilians as Russian units launch artillery and airstrikes into urban areas – as they have done in cities across Ukraine,” said Haines, the main intelligence adviser to President Joe Biden.
U.S. officials, including Vice President Kamala Harris, have offered support to calls for an international war crimes investigation into Russia’s invasion.
They cite examples including the bombing of a maternity hospital in the southern city of Mariupol. Russia shifted its stance over the hospital bombing, with a mix of statements on Thursday that veered between aggressive denials and a call by the Kremlin to establish clear facts.