United States President Joe Biden on March 16 called Russian President Vladimir Putin a “war criminal” over the invasion of Ukraine.
When a reporter asked Biden if he would label Putin a war criminal “after everything we’ve seen,” Biden initially said no and walked away.
However, Biden returned moments later and asked the reporter to repeat the question, appearing to have initially misunderstood her.
“Oh, I think he is a war criminal,” Biden said without elaborating.
It was the first time Biden used the term to describe Putin since Russian forces invaded Ukraine nearly three weeks ago.
In a press briefing later, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said that Biden was speaking “from his heart.”
“The president’s remarks speak for themselves. He was speaking from his heart and speaking from what you’ve seen on television, which is barbaric actions by a brutal dictator, through his invasion of a foreign country,” Psaki said.
Psaki noted that a legal process was underway at the State Department to review Russia’s actions in Ukraine to determine if they amount to war crimes.
“The president was answering a direct question that was asked, and responding to what he has seen on television, we have all seen,” Psaki said when asked by a reporter who noted the ongoing, formal process to use the term.
“Barbaric acts, horrific acts, by a foreign dictator in a country that is threatening and taking the lives of civilians impacting hospitals, women who are pregnant, journalists, others, and I think he was answering a direct question,” Psaki further said.
Kremlin Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov said that Biden’s comments were “unacceptable and unforgiveable,” according to Russian state-owned news agency Tass.
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