US President Joe Biden has called his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin “a war criminal” over the conflict in Ukraine, with the Kremlin responding that such remarks from the United States are “unacceptable and unforgivable.”
During a White House event on Wednesday, Biden was asked by one of the reporters if he considered Russia’s president a war criminal. Initially, Biden answered “no,” but then he asked the journalist to clarify the question and said: “Oh I think he is a war criminal.”
Commenting on the American leader’s remarks, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told TASS that Moscow considers “unacceptable and unforgivable such rhetoric from the head of state, whose bombs killed hundreds of thousands of people around the world.”
While the US has consistently condemned Russia’s attack on Ukraine, Biden’s remarks on Wednesday apparently mark the first time the American leader used a term as strong as “war criminal” to describe Putin’s actions. Previously, the White House avoided using this definition, explaining that it was a specific legal term.
In a speech on Wednesday, Biden accused the Russian military of shelling hospitals and apartment buildings – something that Moscow denies.
The president’s remarks came a day after the US Senate backed a resolution declaring Putin a war criminal. The Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said on Tuesday that both Democrats and Republicans joined together “to say that Vladimir Putin cannot escape accountability for the atrocities committed against the Ukrainian people.”
Putin has consistently denied the accusations of indiscriminate shelling of Ukrainian cities by the Russian forces, stressing that the military “are working with modern high-precision weapons,” hitting only military targets.
Moscow attacked Ukraine in late February, following a seven-year standoff over Ukraine’s failure to implement the terms of the Minsk agreements, and Russia’s eventual recognition of the Donbass republics with capitals in Donetsk and Lugansk. The German- and French-brokered protocols had been designed to regularize the status of those regions within the Ukrainian state.
Russia has now demanded that Ukraine officially declare itself a neutral country that will never join the US-led NATO military bloc. Kiev insists the Russian offensive was completely unprovoked and has denied claims it was planning to retake the two republics by force.
The West imposed tough sanctions on Russia for the offensive against Ukraine, including against Putin personally. Moscow responded with counter sanctions which targeted the US President.