Biden calls Putin a ‘war criminal’ for bombing civilians in Ukraine

The US president, Joe Biden, described this Wednesday as "war criminal" to his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, and announced massive military aid to Ukraine, where civilians were targeted in bakeries, markets or theaters.

"I think that [Putin] he is a war criminal"Biden responded to a journalist who questioned him at the White House.

His press secretary, Jen Psaki, later said that Biden was "speaking with the heart" after seeing pictures of "barbaric actions of a brutal dictator through his invasion of a foreign country".

The Russian reply was immediate.

"We consider such rhetoric by the head of a state whose bombs killed hundreds of thousands of people around the world unacceptable and inexcusable."said the spokesman for the Russian presidency, Dmitri Peskov.

Biden had announced shortly before an increase to 1,000 million dollars in the amount of aid promised to Ukraine, against 200 million initially promised to deal with the invasion.

"We help Ukraine acquire additional and longer-range air defense systems"Biden said, specifying that the aid will include drones.

– Buying bread –

Reports of bombings against Ukrainian civilian targets are multiplying as the invasion enters its third week and Russian troops attempt to complete the encirclement of kyiv, the Ukrainian capital.

Ten people lining up to buy bread in Chernigov (north) were killed in the morning when Russian soldiers shot them dead. "premeditated"according to the Ukrainian Prosecutor’s Office.

At night, the authorities reported the discovery of five bodies, including three children, under the rubble of a bombing in the same city.

In Kharkov (northwest), three people died and five were injured in a fire in a market, caused by bombing, rescue services reported.

In the afternoon, Grad rocket fire at a convoy of civilians leaving the besieged port city of Mariupol caused an unknown number of deaths and injuries, according to the Ukrainian military.

In that same city, faced with a dramatic lack of food, water and medicine, a theater where there were "hundreds of civilians" was hit by a Russian bombardment, announced the mayor’s office, indicating that until now it lacked a balance of victims.

In kyiv, the inhabitants of the capital must respect a curfew until Thursday morning. According to the municipal authorities, kyiv is experiencing a "dangerous moment".

– Applause in Congress –

In a virtual address to the US Congress, where he received a standing ovation, Ukrainian President Volodimir Zelensky again called on the United States and its NATO allies for a no-fly zone over Ukraine to protect it from Russian attacks.

"I need your decision, your help". "Is it too much to ask, to create a no-fly zone over Ukraine, to save people?"I ask.

Addressing Biden in English, he said that leading the free world also means being the "peace leader".

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Shortly after, the NATO chief reiterated that no troops will be sent to Ukraine but that they will strengthen its eastern flank.

NATO has so far resisted calls to become directly involved in the conflict, for fear of sparking a Third World War between two belligerents with massive nuclear arsenals.

In an interview with the US network NBC, Zelensky argued that this Third World War "could have already started" and that "all civilization" was in play.

– Putin’s warning –

Putin assured, in a televised government meeting, that the operation is taking place "successfully" and compared the action of Western countries to the persecutions against the Jews in Eastern Europe in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

"The West has dropped the mask of decency and started acting hateful. Parallels draw with anti-Semitic pogroms"he said, reiterating that he does not want "occupy" Ukraine.

Before addressing the US Congress, Zelensky urged his compatriots not to give up, but hinted that the conflict would end with a negotiated settlement.

"All wars end with an agreement"he indicated, referring to the "difficult" but "important" ongoing negotiations between kyiv and Moscow.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Peskov stated that Austria and Sweden could be taken as models of neutrality for Ukraine.

Without denying these discussions, the Ukrainian negotiator Mijailo Podoliak affirmed that "the model can only be ukrainian".

In another address to his people, Zelensky indicated that his priorities in the negotiation "are clear: end of the war, security guarantees, sovereignty, restoration of our territorial integrity, real guarantees for our country, real protection for our country".

In recent days, Zelensky has admitted that Ukraine had to accept that it will not join NATO. Preventing that accession was one of the main arguments used by Russia to justify its offensive.

– "economic blitzkrieg" –

For now, Western countries have chosen to isolate Russia diplomatically and economically, applying harsh sanctions that could lead to a default on its debt.

Putin promised financial aid to individuals and companies to deal with the avalanche of sanctions and assured that the "Blitzkrieg" against his country failed.

This Wednesday, Russia was due to repay $117 million in interest on two debt bonds, the first installment in a series scheduled for March and April.

Some $300 billion of Russia’s reserves are frozen in Western banks. The sanctions also forced Moscow out of several international political and sports forums.

At a time when Moscow tightens its control over published information on the conflict, the Russian telecommunications regulator Roskomnadzor blocked the pages of at least 30 media outlets and also that of the BBC.

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