WASHINGTON (Nexstar) — Reports and video footage from Ukraine show Russia has been bombing largely civilian areas, leading White House officials to take a stronger tone.
In the past 24 hours, several officials have said that Russia and its president, Vladimir Putin, are in fact committing war crimes, and they said more help is headed to Ukraine.
Officials said just this week Russia bombed schools, a hospital and a theater in Ukraine where civilians were sheltered.
Russia denies responsibility for that attack.
“The word children had been written in Russian in giant white letters on the pavement outside the building, so you could know from the air that there were children inside,” said Secretary of State Anthony Blinken.
“I think he is a war criminal,” President Joe Biden said referring to Putin.
U.S. officials are no longer shying away from calling Putin’s and Russia’s actions war crimes.
“Personally, I agree, intentionally targeting civilians is a war crime,” Blinken said.
“If you attack civilians purposely, target civilians purposely, that is a crime,” said Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin.
Austin said the United States still can’t grant one of Ukraine’s top requests — declaring a no-fly zone.
“There’s no such thing as a no-fly zone light,” Austin said. “A no-fly zone means that you’re in a conflict with Russia.”
Russia’s nuclear weapons make that a dangerous prospect. Fear of escalation is also why the U.S. isn’t agreeing to deliver Polish fighter jets to Ukraine.
But Congress has approved $13.5 billion in aid and Wednesday, Biden announced $800 million in immediate help, including defensive weapons like ground-to-air missiles and armed drones.
Today, the United Nations held an emergency meeting to discuss what’s happening in Ukraine and the issue of possible war crimes committed by Russia.