Mark Kelly says White House should characterize Putin as a war criminal

Senator Mark Kelly (D-AZ) speaks to the press during a post-luncheon conference at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday, February 8, 2022.
Anna Rose Layden

Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly (Ariz.) said the White House should be characterizing Russian President Vladimir Putin as a war criminal for his actions in Ukraine. 

Kelly was asked by a CNN reporter on Wednesday if President Biden should call Putin a war criminal.

“Absolutely,” Kelly responded. “Call it what it is. He is attacking hospitals, maternity wards, apartment buildings.”

“When you direct fire on civilians, by definition you are a war criminal,” he added.

Biden has condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and announced multiple rounds of sanctions against Moscow, but he has refrained from commenting on whether the Kremlin has committed war crimes in the conflict.

Kelly’s comments come after the Senate on Tuesday passed a nonbinding resolution supporting a war crimes investigation into Putin for his invasion of Ukraine.

Last week, Vice President Harris expressed support for a war crimes investigation into Russia and said when asked if the country’s actions in Ukraine constitute war crimes, “We have been clear that any intentional attack or targeting of civilians is a war crime. Period.”

Responding to a question about Harris’s support for such an investigation, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said there is a legal review process to make considerations before labeling an action as a war crime.

“That is the ongoing process that … we’re pursuing at this point in time. It’s ongoing,” Psaki said. “Obviously, if Russia is intentionally targeting civilians, that would be a war crime. But we need to go through the legal assessment and review in order to make a formal conclusion.”

In an address to Congress on Wednesday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky showed a video of the destruction the war has caused in Ukraine.

The video showed civilian buildings being hit with bombs and missiles as well as injured and dead Ukrainians.

The United Nations human rights office said on Wednesday that the deaths of 726 civilians have been recorded in Ukraine since the beginning of the conflict, although it said that is likely a severe undercount. 

More than 3 million Ukrainians have fled the country since the fighting began roughly three weeks ago, according to the U.N.

Tags Jen Psaki Joe Biden Mark Kelly Russia-Ukraine conflict Vladimir Putin War crimes
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