Joe Biden finally labels Putin a 'war criminal' in strongest condemnation yet
The White House had been hesitant to declare Mr Putin’s actions those of a war criminal
President Joe Biden has called Vladimir Putin a war criminal as the atrocities in Ukraine mount.
It is the sharpest condemnation yet of Mr Putin and Russian actions by a US official since the invasion of Ukraine.
While other world leaders have used the words, the White House had been hesitant to declare Mr Putin’s actions those of a war criminal, saying it was a legal term that required research.
But in a speech on Wednesday, Mr Biden said Russian troops had bombed hospitals and held doctors hostage. He pledged more aid to help Ukraine fight Russia.
“He’s a war criminal,” Mr Biden said.
He also announced the US is sending more anti-aircraft and anti-tank weapons and drones to Ukraine to assist in its defence against Russia, announcing the help after Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky urged the US and other Western nations to do more in an emotional speech to Congress.
The president’s comments came as he formally announced his administration was sending an additional 800 million dollars in military assistance to Ukraine, making a total of 2 billion dollars in such aid sent to Kyiv since Mr Biden took office more than a year ago.
Mr Biden said the new assistance includes 800 Stinger anti-aircraft systems, 100 grenade launchers, 20 million rounds of small arms ammunition and grenade launchers and mortar rounds and an unspecified number of drones.
“We’re going to give Ukraine the arms to fight and defend themselves through all the difficult days ahead,” Mr Biden said.
He spoke hours after Mr Zelensky delivered a video address to members of US Congress in which he made an impassioned plea for the US and West to provide more help to save his young democracy than world leaders have so far pledged to provide.
Mr Zelensky summoned the memory of Pearl Harbour and the September 11 2001 terror attacks in appealing to the US Congress to do more to help Ukraine’s fight against Russia, but he acknowledged the no-fly zone he has sought to “close the sky” to airstrikes on his country may not happen.
Livestreamed into the Capitol complex, Mr Zelensky said the US must sanction Russian lawmakers and block imports. But rather than an enforced no-fly zone that the White House has resisted, he instead sought other military aid to stop the Russian assault.
For the first time in a public address to world leaders, he showed a packed auditorium of lawmakers a graphic video of the destruction and devastation his country has suffered in the war, along with heart-breaking scenes of civilian casualties.
“We need you right now,” Mr Zelensky said. “I call on you to do more.”
Lawmakers gave him a standing ovation, before and after his short remarks, which Mr Zelensky began in Ukrainian through an interpreter but then switched to English in a heartfelt appeal to help end the bloodshed.
“I see no sense in life if it cannot stop the deaths,” he said.