President Joe Biden on Wednesday called Russian President Vladimir Putin a “war criminal,” marking the first time in public the president has publicly branded his Russian counterpart since Moscow launched a continued assault in the invasion of Ukraine almost three weeks ago.
In a brief exchange with reporters Wednesday, Biden was asked if he believes the Russian leader is a war criminal amid the crisis in Ukraine.
“Mr. President, after everything we’ve seen, are you ready to call Putin a war criminal,” Fox News Reporter asked Biden.
The president initially responded “No” and walked away. Less than a minute later, Biden returned to where pool press, asking the reporter, “Did you ask me whether I should call?”
“Oh, I think he is a war criminal,” Biden responded without elaborating.
Shortly after Biden called Putin a “war criminal,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki when asked about the president’s remark. Psaki pointed to the ongoing Russian onslaught to note that Biden was “speaking from his heart.”
“We have all seen 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,” Psaki said. “I think he was answering a direct question.”
The Kremlin spokesperson reacted angrily to Biden’s remark, according to TASS, the Russian state-owned news agency, saying the words of the U.S President are “unacceptable and unforgivable rhetoric.”
“We consider unacceptable and unforgivable such rhetoric of the head of state, whose bombs killed hundreds of thousands of people around the world,” press secretary of the president of the Russian Federation, Dmitry Peskov, told TASS.
Earlier Wednesday afternoon, Biden authorized an additional $800 million in military aid package for Ukraine. Biden vowed that his administration and the American people will be “steadfast in our support of the people of Ukraine in the face of Putin’s immoral, unethical attacks on civilian populations.”
“We are united in our abhorrence of Putin’s depraved onslaught,” Biden said.
The new military package includes:
- 800 Stinger anti-aircraft systems
- 2,000 Javelin, 1,000 light anti-armor weapons, and 6,000 AT-4 anti-armor systems
- 100 Tactical Unmanned Aerial Systems
- 100 grenade launchers, 5,000 rifles, 1,000 pistols, 400 machine guns and 400 shotguns
- Over 20 million rounds of small arms ammunition and grenade launcher and mortar rounds
- 25,000 sets of body armor
- 25,000 helmets
The new security assistance does not include fighter jets or impose a no-fly zone over Ukraine. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has repeatedly requested since the onset of the invasion. The United Nations on Tuesday said that since Feb. 24, when Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine, nearly 700 civilians had been killed, with more than 1,140 civilians injured.