US President Joe Biden speaks about funds to help Ukraine, in the South Court Auditorium of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, next to the White House, in Washington, DC, on March 16, 2022.
Nicholas Kamm | AFP | Getty Images
President Joe Biden said Wednesday that he believes Russian leader Vladimir Putin “is a war criminal” for his attacks on Ukraine.
It was the first time Biden has publicly branded Putin with that phrase.
Biden’s comment came hours Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and other top officials met virtually with the International Criminal Court’s top prosecutor, who two weeks ago opened an investigation into possible war crimes by Russia.
And it came after Sen. Mark Kelly, D-Ariz., earlier Wednesday said Biden “absolutely” should call Putin a war criminal.
Kelly cited Russia’s attacks on “Hospitals, maternity Wards, apartment buildings” in Ukraine, and its military’s “direct fire on civilians.”
In an exchange with a Reporter, Biden was asked, “Mr. President, after everything we’ve seen, are you ready to call Putin a war criminal.”
Biden initially replied, “No.”
The Reporter then asked if Biden would “go to Poland,” where many Ukraine Refugees have fled the Russian Invasion.
Biden then said, “Did you ask me whether I should call?”
“Oh, I think he’s a war criminal,” Biden said.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki later said Biden was speaking from his heart from what he saw on the news, which is “barbaric actions by a Brutal dictator.”
Psaki noted that there is a separate legal process to determine whether Putin has violated international law and committed war crimes. That process is currently underway at the State Department, she said.
The United Nations on Tuesday said that since Feb. 24, when Russia launched its Invasion of Ukraine, nearly 700 civilians have been killed, with more than 1,140 civilians injected.