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Russia denounces as ‘unacceptable and unforgivable’ Biden’s ‘war criminal’ comment

Russia has slammed US President Joe Biden for calling Russian leader Vladimir Putin a "war criminal" over the Russian military offensive in Ukraine, denouncing the comment as "unacceptable and unforgivable."

“We believe such rhetoric to be unacceptable and unforgivable on the part of the head of a state whose bombs have killed hundreds of thousands of people around the world,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Wednesday.

Earlier in the day, Biden called his Russian counterpart a “war criminal” as he spoke to a group of reporters at the White House, marking the first time any US official has used the term to characterize Putin since Moscow attacked Ukraine three weeks ago.

Asked whether Putin is a “war criminal,” the US president initially said no and walked away, but then returned to the members of the press and, when the question was repeated, he responded, “Oh, I think he is a war criminal,” without elaborating.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki later said Biden was “speaking from the heart” rather than making any official declaration, adding that a legal review was underway by the State Department to determine whether Russia’s actions in Ukraine constituted war crimes.

Biden also announced an additional $800 million in security assistance to Ukraine to fight Russia, with the new package including drones, anti-armor, and anti-aircraft systems. “More will be coming as we source additional stocks of equipment that… we are ready to transfer,” he said.

On February 24, the Russian president ordered a “special military operation” in Ukraine. The conflict has provoked a unanimous response from Western countries, which have imposed a long list of sanctions on Moscow.

Russia says mission in Ukraine ‘going to plan’

Meanwhile, Russia has announced that the military offensive in Ukraine is “going to plan,” amid talk of compromise at peace negotiations.

Putin said on Wednesday that a neutral status for Ukraine similar to that of Sweden or Austria was being discussed at talks with Kiev as part of a peace agreement to end three weeks of conflict in Ukraine.

However, Kiev immediately rejected the proposal, calling for a legally binding security agreement signed by international partners who would “not stand aside in the event of an attack on Ukraine, as they do today.”

According to international law, neutrality means the obligation of a state, brought about by unilateral declaration or coercion, not to interfere in military conflicts of third states. Examples of neutrality are Sweden and Austria — two European Union member states that are not members of NATO.

Russia and Ukraine have held several rounds of negotiations since last month with the latest bout ending late Tuesday and Kiev pointing to “fundamental contradictions.”

World Court orders Russia to cease military operations in Ukraine

Separately on Wednesday, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ordered Russia to stop the military strikes on Ukraine.

“The Russian Federation shall immediately suspend the military operations that it commenced on Feb 24, 2022 in the territory of Ukraine,” the judges said. Russia must also ensure that other forces under its control or supported by Moscow should not continue the military operations, they added.

Russia has said it will halt the military operations instantly if Kiev meets certain demands, including that Ukraine never join NATO.

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