Biden says Bucha killings are a ‘war crime’
President Biden on Monday said he believes Russia committed war crimes in the Ukrainian city of Bucha and pledged to impose further sanctions on Moscow.
Biden also called for Russian President Vladimir Putin to face a war crimes trial for the acts of violence Russia has committed in Ukraine.
“This guy is brutal and what’s happening in Bucha is outrageous and everyone has seen it,” Biden told reporters upon arriving at Fort McNair in Washington, D.C. “I think it is a war crime.”
“I am seeking more sanctions,” Biden said, declining to specify what those penalties would look like.
The brief remarks represented the president’s first comments on the destruction in Bucha, a town northwest of Ukraine’s capital. Images emerged this weekend showing people lying dead in the streets and in mass graves, triggering widespread condemnation of Russia’s actions.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has accused Russia of genocide.
Biden reiterated his characterization of Putin as a “war criminal” on Monday but said more evidence needed to be collected so a war crimes case can be tried. The International Criminal Court has launched an investigated into whether Russia committed war crimes in Ukraine.
The State Department already formally accused Russia of committing war crimes in Ukraine by deliberately targeting civilians, including in strikes on a maternity hospital and theater that was being used as a shelter in Mariupol.
“He should be held accountable,” Biden said.
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield said earlier Monday that the U.S. would seek Russia’s suspension from the U.N. Human Rights Council following the violence in Bucha.
“Russia’s participation on the Human Rights Council is a farce,” Thomas-Greenfield told reporters in Bucharest. “It hurts the credibility of the Council and the UN writ large. And it is simply wrong.”
Any additional U.S. penalties on Russia would likely be coordinated with European allies. It was not immediately clear when Biden would announce new sanctions on Russia.
Meanwhile, a senior U.S. defense official said the Pentagon could not independently confirm reports of killings in Bucha but said officials have “no reason whatsoever to refute the Ukrainian claims about these atrocities.”
The official also called the images “deeply, deeply troubling.”
Russia denied killing civilians in Bucha and has more broadly rejected allegations of war crimes.
The U.S. and its allies have imposed expansive sanctions on Russian officials and oligarchs and Russian banks in the month since Russia launched a large-scale military invasion of Ukraine.
The sanctions have hit the Russian economy hard and driven businesses from Moscow.
Russia last week began to withdraw some forces from around Kyiv, but U.S. officials say that they believe Moscow will reposition those forces to attack other parts of Ukraine. Russia has sustained heavy losses in the invasion and ran into more resistance than expected from the Ukrainian forces.
On Monday, Biden emphasized the need to continue to supply Ukraine with military aid as its forces fight the Russians. The Pentagon announced Friday plans to ship $300 million in additional security assistance to Ukraine, including Switchblade drones, ammunition, and other weapons and gear. Biden has committed over $1 billion in security assistance to Ukraine since Russia’s invasion on Feb. 24.
Still, the administration has faced pressure to do more to bolster Ukraine’s air defense to fend off Russian airstrikes.
Ellen Mitchell contributed. Updated at 11:42 a.m.
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