Washington —on Wednesday called Russian President a "war criminal," marking the first time the president has used the term to characterize his Russian counterpart since Moscow launched the nearly three weeks ago.
Mr. Biden made the comment to a group of reporters at the White House after an event on the. Asked whether Putin is a "war criminal," the president initially said no and walked away, but then returned to the members of the press and, when the question was repeated, said he thinks the Russian leader is a war criminal.
"Oh, I think he is a war criminal," the president responded without elaborating.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki pointed to theamong other Russian aggressions in Ukraine.
"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," she said. "I think he was answering a direct question."
Psaki said a legal review is underway at the State Department to review Russia's actions in Ukraine and whether they constitute war crimes.
Putin's press secretary reacted angrily to Mr. Biden's comments, according to TASS, the Russian state-owned news agency. "We consider unacceptable and unforgivable such rhetoric of the head of state, whose bombs killed hundreds of thousands of people around the world," said Dmitry Peskov.
Mr. Biden's comment came as Russia has continued its bombardment of civilians in Ukraine, with the loss of lives and suffering growing. On Tuesday, the Senate unanimously approved a resolution condemning the violence in Ukraine and calling for an investigation of Putin and members of his regime for war crimes
The International Court of Justice has ordered Russia to cease its invasion andinto the war. The United Nations human rights office registered roughly 600 civilian deaths, though the toll is expected to be much higher. More than 2,000 people are believed to have been killed in the port city of Mariupol alone, according to Ukrainian officials. The U.N. estimates 3 million people have fled Ukraine because of Russia's war, while another nearly 2 million have been internally displaced. The U.N. said the refugee crisis in Ukraine is the fast-growing in Europe since World War II.
On Wednesday, the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine said Russian forceswho were standing in line for bread in Chernihiv, a city in northeast Ukraine that was hit in a Russian artillery strike.
"Such horrific attacks must stop. We are considering all available options to ensure accountability for any atrocity crimes in Ukraine," the embassy said in a tweet.
Local officials in Ukraine and Dmytro Kuleba, the country's minister off foreign affairs, on Wednesday said Russian troopsin Mariupol where "hundreds" of civilians were sheltering.
"Russians could not have not known this was a civilian shelter," Kuleba tweeted, along with a photo purporting to show the besieged theater.
Mr. Biden$800 million in new security assistance to Ukraine Wednesday morning, including armed drones. But the new security assistance does not include fighter jets or impose a no-fly zone over Ukraine, as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy requested in a Wednesday morning.
"Russia has turned the Ukrainian sky into a source of death for thousands of people," Zelenskyy said in his speech, during which he played for lawmakers a graphic video showing the extent of the death and destruction in Ukraine by Russia.
Mr. Biden, who watched the speech from the White House residence, called Zelenskyy's speech "passionate."
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