National security advisor Jake Sullivan said U.S. intelligence discovered that “there was a plan from the highest levels of the Russian government to target” civilians in Ukraine.
Appearing on ABC’s “This Week,” Sullivan told host Jon Karl that the “horrifying” images of mass casualties in Ukraine were “downright shocking,” but they were “not surprising.” He said U.S. intelligence presented the information before the war began.
“We, in fact, before the war began, declassified intelligence and presented it indicating that there was a plan from the highest levels of the Russian government to target civilians who oppose the invasion, to cause violence against them,” he said. “To organize efforts to brutalize them in order to try to terrorize the population and subjugate it.
“So this was something that was planned.”
Sullivan noted that frustration among Russian soldiers or troops may also contribute to violence against civilians, as they believed they would have a “glorious victory.”
“I think there certainly are cases where individual soldiers or individual units got frustrated because the Ukrainians were beating them back,” he said. “They had been told they were going to have a glorious victory and just ride into Kyiv without any opposition with the Ukrainians welcoming them. And when that didn’t happen, I do think some of these units engaged in these acts of brutality, these atrocities, these war crimes even without direction from above.”
However, Sullivan emphasized that the overall blame is on the Russian government.
“But make no mistake, the larger issue of broad-scale war crimes and atrocities in Ukraine lies at the feet of the Kremlin and lies at the feet of the Russian president,” he said.”