Shortly after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky addressed the United State Congress and asked for more assistance in its fight against Russia, President Joe Biden characterized Vladimir Putin as a “war criminal,” in a move Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov declared “unforgivable,” as Fox News reports.
Biden had been asked by network correspondent Jacqui Heinrich if he believes the Russian president is guilty of war crimes, and though he initially replied by saying “no,” less than a minute later, he made his way back to the reporter and remarked, “Did you ask me whether I would call… Oh, I, I think he is a war criminal.”
That description came hours after Biden announced that the U.S. would send additional weapons and aid to Ukraine, such as drones, anti-aircraft equipment, body armor, and more during remarks in which he also said, “Putin is inflicting appalling, appalling devastation and horror on Ukraine, bombing apartment buildings, maternity wards, hospitals. I mean, it’s God awful.”
As The Hill reported, Russia shot back at Biden’s statement on Putin’s actions, calling it “unacceptable and unforgivable rhetoric on the part of a head of state whose bombs have killed hundreds of thousands of people around the world.”
The outlet further noted that the U.S. State Department has launched the investigator process through which Putin could receive an official designation as a war criminal, and White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters that Biden’s remarks “speak for themselves” and that he was “speaking from his heart and speaking from what we’ve seen on television… .”
Biden’s take on Putin’s culpability was echoed by Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Thursday when he agreed that Russian actions in Ukraine amount to war crimes, as The Hill reported separately.
Offering an example of the brutality being unleashed on the Ukrainian people, Blinken explained, “Russian forces…opened fire on 10 civilians who were waiting in line for bread. These incidences join a long list of attacks on civilian, not military, locations across Ukraine, including apartment buildings, public squares and last week a maternity hospital in Mariupol.”
This, according to Blinken, is part and parcel of Russia’s objective of “breaking the will of the Ukrainian people,” adding that the State Department is currently “documenting and evaluating potential war crimes being committed” for future use.
The secretary of State stopped short of making a categorical pronouncement about Putin’s possible fate, he contended that he could “say with conviction that there will be accountability for any war crimes that are determined to have occurred,” but whether that promise is indeed kept by the international community, only time will tell.