Biden brands Putin a “war criminal”

Image: The White House on Twitter

For the first time in the conflict US President Joe Biden has referred to his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin as a “war criminal”, words that are likely to escalate the ongoing tensions between the two super powers.

The off-the-cuff remark came in response to a reporter’s question at the White House, saying later that he was “speaking from his heart”.

In their response the Kremlin said it was “unforgiveable rhetoric” with spokesperson Dmitry Peskov telling Russian state news agency Tass that: “We believe such rhetoric to be unacceptable and unforgivable on the part of the head of a state, whose bombs have killed hundreds of thousands of people around the world.”

Joe Biden was responding to a question by a reporter who asked: “Mr President, after everything we have seen, are you ready to call Putin a war criminal?”

The President replied “no” before being challenged, and then changed his reply: “Did you ask me whether I would tell ….? Oh, I think he is a war criminal.”

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki later clarified the remarks saying that the president was speaking from the heart after seeing the “barbaric” images of the conflict in Ukraine, and that it was not any official declaration from the government.

She continued saying that a separate legal process, run by the State Department, to determine war crimes was ongoing.

The official Twitter account for the President posted: “Putin is inflicting appalling devastation and horror on Ukraine – bombing apartment buildings and maternity wards… these are atrocities. It is an outrage to the world.”

According to the BBC, Biden has been known to make major policy reversals in off-the-cuff comments, in this case reversing his original comment. The comment will inflame the already fractious working relationship between the two countries.

Presidents are usually reticent to make such off-the-cuff statements, however Biden remarks as he brands Putin a “war criminal” are perhaps a sign that the world order has changed and are simply a reflection of the reality of the appalling situation in Ukraine.

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Written by

Peter McLaren-Kennedy

Originally from South Africa, Peter is based on the Costa Blanca and is a web reporter for the Euro Weekly News covering international and Spanish national news. Got a news story you want to share? Then get in touch at [email protected]