'Deliberate cruelty': U.S. defense chief on Russia

STORY: "Because of the Kremlin's longing for a vanished empire, Europe faces its worst security crisis since the end of World War II. And a member of the UN Security Council, let me say that again, a member of the UN Security Council is waging war to deny democracy to more than 43 million people," Austin told the Reagan National Defense Forum in Simi Valley, California.

"With deliberate cruelty, Russia is putting civilians and civilian infrastructure in its gun sights. Russian forces have killed thousands of Ukrainian citizens, even as millions more have fled. And Russian attacks have left children dead, schools shattered and hospitals smashed."

On Friday, a U.N.-appointed investigation team said it was looking into whether Russia's attacks on critical infrastructure in Ukraine, which has caused blackouts and left millions without heating as winter arrives, amount to war crimes.

Russia says the assaults do not target civilians and are meant to reduce Ukraine's ability to fight and push it to negotiate, but Kyiv says such attacks are a war crime.