In a response to a shouted-out question by a reporter on Wednesday, President Joe Biden said, “Yes, I think [Putin] is a war criminal.”
The comment came several hours after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky addressed the U.S. Congress via a live video broadcast.
In his speech, Zelensky urged America to send planes, to close the skies over Ukraine, and to lead NATO to force Putin to abandon designs on his country. Biden’s reply was “no, no, and no,” according to Fox News.
President Biden, however, did pledge to provide additional financial and material support to Ukraine, including anti-aircraft, armor, guns, and drones.
Fox News previously reported President Biden saying: “Putin is inflicting appalling, appalling devastation and horror on Ukraine, bombing apartment buildings, maternity wards, hospitals. I mean, it’s God awful. The world is united in our support for Ukraine and our determination to make Putin pay a very heavy price.”
However, the White House appears unwilling to pull the trigger on classifying Putin as a “war criminal.” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki attempted to walk back Biden’s remark by saying the President was speaking from the heart…but that a “legal process” is still underway at the State Department.
Meanwhile, Russian leadership was greatly offended by Biden’s comment. According to an MSN report, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov responded by saying:
“Our president is a very wise, prescient and cultured international figure and head of the Russian Federation, our head of state…
“Such statements by Mr Biden are absolutely impermissible, unacceptable and unforgivable. The main thing is that the head of a state which has for many years bombed people across the world… the president of such a country has no right to make such statements.”
Peskov added that the United States dropped atomic weapons on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and firebombed Dresden and Tokyo. Accordingly, America has no moral high ground to condemn others.
According to the MSN report, on Thursday, “Russia warned the United States that Moscow had the might to put the world’s pre-eminent superpower in its place and accused the West of stoking a wild Russophobic plot to tear Russia apart.”
Responding to increasing reports of horrific happenings in Ukraine, on Tuesday the U.S. Senate unanimously approved a measure calling for Putin and key Russian officials to be investigated for “war crimes” and “crimes against humanity.”
Undeterred, on Wednesday, Russia’s military attacked a theater in Mariupol where “hundreds of innocent civilians were hiding,” Ukraine Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said of the event:
“The building is now fully ruined. Russians could not have not known this was a civilian shelter,” Kuleba wrote on Twitter. “Save Mariupol! Stop Russian war criminals!”
Russia is also accused of using weapons that are forbidden by international law, including deadly cluster munitions and vacuum bombs.
Ukraine claims these weapons have been used to target civilians.
The UN reports that the number of civilian deaths in Ukraine since Feb. 24 exceeds 780, many of which were children.
On Wednesday, President Zelenskyy showed video of civilian casualties and the devastation inflicted by Russian forces on his country in his address to Congress.
“We need you right now,” Zelenskyy told Congress. “I call on you to do more.”
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