The Kremlin on Wednesday said President Biden’s comments calling Russian President Vladimir Putin a “war criminal” were “unforgivable,” according to Reuters.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov called Biden’s statement “unacceptable and unforgivable rhetoric on the part of the head of a state whose bombs have killed hundreds of thousands of people around the world,” according to Russian state news agency TASS.
Biden on Wednesday called Putin a “war criminal” for the first time, upping American rhetoric and jumping ahead of a legal process that can take years.
“I think he is a war criminal,” Biden told reporters at an event at the White House.
The State Department has initiated a process officially designating Putin a war criminal, White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters on Wednesday.
Biden’s remarks came shortly after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky‘s virtual address to Congress, in which he made an emotional plea for more help.
Zelensky has implored the U.S. and other allied nations to impose a humanitarian no-fly zone over Ukraine, saying, “Russia has turned the Ukrainian sky into a source of death for thousands of people.”
Biden has resisted the move because of concerns that it would trigger a larger war.
The Senate on Tuesday unanimously passed a resolution backing a war crimes investigation into Putin and Russian forces.
The bipartisan resolution urged the International Criminal Court in The Hague and other nations to launch an investigation of war crimes committed by the Russian military during its invasion of Ukraine.
The fighting in Ukraine has displaced more than 3 million people since the invasion began on Feb. 24, according to estimates from the United Nations.