President Joe Biden on Friday said the International Criminal Court’s case against Russian President Vladimir Putin “makes a very strong point,” as he voiced support for the investigation into Putin’s alleged war crimes.
“I think it’s justified,” Biden said, “but the question is, it’s not recognized internationally by us, either. But I think it makes a very strong point.”
Biden later told reporters that Putin had “clearly committed war crimes.”
Neither the US nor Russia are members of the ICC, which on Friday issued an arrest warrant for Putin and Russian official Maria Lvova-Belova for an alleged scheme to deport Ukrainian children to Russia.
The court said there “are reasonable grounds to believe that Mr Putin bears individual criminal responsibility” for the alleged crimes, for having committed them directly alongside others, and for “his failure to exercise control properly over civilian and military subordinates who committed the acts.” The ICC charges, which relate to an alleged practice reported on by CNN and others, are the first to be formally lodged against officials in Moscow since its war on Ukraine began last year.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky thanked the ICC for its “historic” decision, but the Kremlin said it considers “the very posing of the question outrageous and unacceptable.”
The White House in a statement earlier Friday welcomed “accountability for perpetrators of war crimes,” but stopped short of a full-throated endorsement of the ICC’s arrest warrant.
“There is no doubt that Russia is committing war crimes and atrocities in Ukraine, and we have been clear that those responsible must be held accountable. The ICC Prosecutor is an independent actor and makes his own prosecutorial decisions based on the evidence before him. We support accountability for perpetrators of war crimes,” National Security Council spokeswoman Adrienne Watson said.
Notably, Watson’s statement earlier Friday did not explicitly express support for the ICC’s efforts to prosecute Putin for war crimes.
A State Department spokesperson told CNN that “we support accountability for perpetrators of war crimes.”
CNN’s Rob Picheta and Lauren Said-Moorhouse contributed to this report.