Move comes in response to Biden calling Putin a “war criminal.”
By David Hellerman
Russian threatened to break off diplomatic ties with the United States on Monday over recent comments by President Joe Biden calling Russian President Vladimir Putin a “war criminal.”
Russia’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying it conveyed the threat to U.S. Ambassador John Sullivan. The statement said Biden’s comments put “Russian-American relations on the verge of rupture.”
Biden’s war criminal remark came hours after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky addressed U.S. Congress.
The comment marked a rhetorical escalation for the U.S. President, who till that point steadfastly refused from branding Putin as a criminal.
Asked by reporters on Thursday about Biden’s comment, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said, “Personally, I agree.”
“Intentionally targeting civilians is a war crime. After all the destruction of the past three weeks, I find it difficult to conclude that the Russians are doing otherwise,” Blinken added.
The Russian invasion has been marked by airstrikes and tank fire on residential buildings, a maternity hospital, and an art school. The death toll has been impossible to confirm. U.N. officials say at least 925 Ukrainian civilians have been killed since Russia invaded on Feb. 24. Ukrainian officials say more than 2,300 civilians have been killed in the siege of Mariupol alone, with many buried in mass graves.
The International Criminal Court has already ordered Russia to cease its invasion of Ukraine. Countries refusing to comply with ICC rulings are referred to the UN Security Council, but Russia has veto power there.