Until now, Joe Biden (right) has refrained from using the phrase "war criminal" to describe Russian leader Vladimir Putin. (file photo)
U.S. President Joe Biden has for the first time called Vladimir Putin a "war criminal" over the Russian president's bloody invasion of neighboring Ukraine.
"I think he is a war criminal," Biden told reporters on March 16. The U.S. administration had avoided using the phrase until now, even when asked directly. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Biden was "speaking from his heart" after seeing images on television of "barbaric actions by a brutal dictator through his invasion of a foreign country." Russia denies targeting civilians despite ample evidence to the contrary documented by the media.
In reaction to Biden's comment, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the statement was "unacceptable and unforgivable rhetoric," the TASS news agency said.
Putin ordered a large-scale invasion of Ukraine three weeks ago, alleging Russia's actions are a "special military operation" to demilitarize and "denazify" Ukraine and topple its democratically elected government. Biden in March last year said that he believed Putin was a "killer," which prompted a diplomatic row that led to Moscow recalling its ambassador to Washington for consultations.