President Biden on Wednesday called Russian President Vladimir Putin a "war criminal" for the first time.
While walking past reporters at the White House, Biden briefly paused and answered a question regarding his views on Russia's ongoing invasion of Ukraine. "He is a war criminal," he said of Putin, reports CNN.
Previously, Biden had forcefully condemned the war on Ukraine, particularly the targeting of hospitals and civilian apartment buildings, but had stopped short of calling Putin a war criminal for launching such attacks. He did not elaborate on whether anything specific had inspired him to change his mind about the designation.
Many reports out of Ukraine have described the horrific fallout of Russia's airstrikes. The Associated Press writes about unheeded humanitarian corridors, airstrikes on maternity wards, and many children killed by explosions and buried in hastily-dug graves. While Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has not shied away from calling attacks on his country "war crimes," Biden had so far been more cautious.
However, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki followed up on his newer, more serious label for Putin. "He was speaking from his heart," said Psaki, explaining Biden's view was shaped by the "barbaric acts by a brutal dictator" in Ukraine. Psaki said there is a legal process underway at the State Department to designate Putin a war criminal. The International Criminal Court is also investigating, and the chief prosecutor told CNN on Wednesday he has reasonable grounds to believe that war crimes have been committed.