President Joe Biden speaks to reporters Monday after arriving at Fort Lesley J. McNair in Washington, D.C. In his remarks, Biden condemned Russian leader Vladimir Putin as a "war criminal" for his war in Ukraine and said he should face trial. Photo by Ting Shen/UPI | License Photo
April 4 (UPI) -- President Joe Biden said Monday that he hopes Russian President Vladimir Putin will ultimately face a war crimes trial for his war in Ukraine, and vowed even more economic punishment for Moscow in view of escalating atrocities in the Eastern European nation.
"He is a war criminal," the president told reporters after arriving in Washington, D.C., on Monday following spending a weekend in his home state of Delaware.
The president's remarks came after Ukrainian officials said retreating Russian forces killed hundreds of civilians in Bucha and the Kyiv region.
Biden called for evidence to be collected that shows Putin orchestrated the atrocities, so that he can face trial as a war criminal.
"This guy is brutal and what's happening in Bucha is outrageous and everyone has seen it. I think it is a war crime," Biden told reporters after arriving at Fort McNair in Washington, D.C.
Biden's comments came after the discovery of photos on Sunday that appeared to show Ukrainian civilians being summarily executed in Bucha. Some showed what looked like a mass grave, as well as bodies lying in the streets.
A destroyed Russian tank is seen on Sunday amid fighting in Bucha, near Kyiv, Ukraine. Photo by Vladyslav Musienko/UPI
In his remarks, Biden called for more sanctions against Russia, but didn't specify.
The president was also firm that he doesn't think the alleged crimes meet the threshold of genocide, despite other world leaders and Ukrainian officials describing them as such in the wake of the Bucha massacre.
Later in the day, national security advisor Jake Sullivan explained that they are monitoring the situation for evidence that may make the case of genocide but they haven't seen any yet.
Concerning trying Putin for war crimes, he said there are several venues to consider with allies and partners though he mentioned the International Criminal Court as a possibility.
Early this month, the ICC announced it has opened an investigation into potential war crimes committed by Russia in Ukraine going back to 2013.
Sullivan said there are four mains sources of evidence that they will develop to build their case: From allies including through intelligence sources, from Ukrainians on the ground documenting the alleged atrocities, from news reports and from international organizations, such as the United Nations and human rights groups.
Asked where the orders for atrocities seen in Bucha and the surrounding Kyiv region may have come from, he said the United States warned before the invasion that intelligence indicated that Russia intended to kill dissidents and civilians who opposed its aggression as a matter of policy.
"So, no, we do not believe that this is just a random accident or the rogue act of a particular individual," he said. "We believe that this was part of the plan, and now we are seeing it play out in real life, in living color, in these terrible, tragic images we are seeing come from Bucha."
He also explained that further sanctions against Russia are expected this week after Biden consults with allies.
The United States and a number of other nations have already levied severe sanctions against Russia and influential Russian officials and oligarchs since the war began Feb. 24.
Biden received some criticism last month for condemning Putin as a war criminal then -- a fact that Biden noted on Monday.
"You may remember I got criticized for calling Putin a war criminal. Well, the truth of the matter -- you saw what happened in Bucha. This warrants him -- he is a war criminal," he said. "He should be held accountable."
Earlier Monday, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield said in a tweet that she will call for removing Russia from the U.N. Human Rights Council.
Ukrainian service members stand beside a damaged building in a residential area after shelling in Kyiv, Ukraine, on March 18. Photo by Vladyslav Musiienko/UPI | License Photo