Ukraine: Joe Biden agrees Putin is a ‘war criminal’
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Moscow said comments made by the US president were “unforgivable”, insisting the war in Ukraine was “going to plan”. According to Russian news agency TASS, Putin’s press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, said: “We consider unacceptable and unforgivable such rhetoric of the head of state, whose bombs killed hundreds of thousands of people around the world.”
Mr Biden said the United States was offering an additional £607 million ($800m) to help Ukraine fight Russia with a new package including drones and anti-armour systems.
He added: “More will be coming as we source additional stocks of equipment that … we are ready to transfer.”
Mr Biden later told reporters: “He is a war criminal.”
White House press secretary, Jen Psaki, speaking at a press conference on Wednesday, said the president’s remarks were from the heart.
She said: “He was speaking from his heart and speaking from what he’s seen on television, which is barbaric actions by a brutal dictator through his actions over a foreign country.”
The US Senate on Tuesday unanimously passed a resolution condemning Putin as a war criminal.
Introduced by Republican Senator Lindsey Graham and backed by senators of both parties, the resolution encouraged the International Criminal Court (ICC) and other nations to target the Russian military in any investigation of war crimes.
The ICC has started a formal investigation into possible war crimes and crimes against humanity in Ukraine after Russia invaded on February 24.
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Neither Russia nor Ukraine are members of the ICC. Moscow does not recognise the tribunal, which opened in The Hague in 2002.
Ukraine has given its approval to examine alleged atrocities on its territory dating back to Russia’s annexation of the Crimea in 2014.
ICC chief prosecutor, Karim Khan, visited Ukraine on Wednesday and held virtual meetings with the country’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy.
Moscow denies targetting civilians and says its goal is to disarm nationalists and neo-Nazis in Ukraine, claims Kyiv and the West have described as baseless.
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Russian forces have kept up their bombardments of besieged cities across Ukraine, including intensified shelling of the capital, Kyiv.
The US Embassy in Kyiv on Wednesday said Russian forces shot dead 10 people waiting in line for bread in Chernihiv, northeast of Ukraine’s capital.
Russia has denied the attack and said the incident was a hoax.
Footage from Ukraine’s state broadcaster showed bodies lying in the street with the Ukrainian general prosecutor’s office announcing that it had opened an investigation.
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Emergency services said rescue workers had found the bodies of five people, including three children, during searches of shell-hit residential buildings in Chernihiv.
In the besieged southern port of Mariupol, the city council said Russian forces bombed a theatre where civilians were sheltering. The number of casualties was not known.
Russia’s defence ministry denied carrying out an air strike against the theatre. It has not been possible to independently verify the information.
Putin delivered a venomous warning to Russian “traitors” on Wednesday who he said the West wanted to use as a “fifth column” to destroy the country.
The leader assailed Russians who he said were more mentally in tune with the West than Russia, and said the Russian people would quickly be able to tell the difference between traitors and patriots.
He told government ministers: “Of course [the West] will try to bet on the so-called fifth column, on traitors – on those who earn their money here, but live over there. Live, not in the geographical sense, but in the sense of their thoughts, their slavish thinking.”
“Any people, and especially the Russian people, will always be able to distinguish the true patriots from the scum and the traitors, and just to spit them out like a midge that accidentally flew into their mouths.”
Russian opposition politician, Mikhail Kasyanov, who served as Putin’s first prime minister in the early 2000s, condemned the remarks on Twitter.
He said: “Putin is intensifying his actions to destroy Russia and is essentially announcing the start of mass repressions against those who don’t agree with the regime. This has happened in our history before, and not only ours.”
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