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Putin should face war crimes trial for Bucha killings, says Biden

WASHINGTON (AP) – United States (US) President Joe Biden on Monday called for Vladimir Putin to be tried for war crimes and said he’ll seek more sanctions against Russia after what he described as “outrageous” atrocities around Kyiv.

One of the president’s top advisers said the Russians had exacted a horrible toll before making a “pell-mell” retreat from around Ukraine’s capital to regroup for dangerous forays elsewhere.

“We have to gather all the detail” for a war crimes trial, Biden said, referencing one of the towns surrounding Kyiv where Ukrainian officials say the bodies of civilians have been found.

“This guy is brutal, and what’s happening in Bucha is outrageous and everyone’s seen it.”

Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, later reminded reporters that the US had unveiled intelligence in the lead-up to the February 24 invasion warning that Russia would seek to imprison or kill dissidents and others it viewed as threats to its attempted occupation of Ukraine. The grim scenes that unfolded around the capital city show that the concern is now coming to pass, he said.

US President Joe Biden speaks to the media at Fort Lesley J McNair. PHOTO: AP

“We do not believe that this is just a random accident, or the rogue act of a particular individual,” Sullivan said of the images of bound civilians who had been killed. “We believe that this was part of the plan.”

Biden made the war crimes allegations to reporters after Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy visited Bucha, where Ukrainian officials said the bodies of civilians have been found in macabre scenes of brutality. Zelenskyy labelled the Russian actions “genocide” and called for the West to apply tougher sanctions against Russia.

Biden and US officials, however, stopped short of calling the actions genocide.

“We have seen atrocities, we have seen war crimes, we have not yet seen a level of systematic deprivation of life of the Ukrainian people to rise to the level of genocide,” Sullivan said.

The bodies of 410 civilians have been removed from Kyiv-area towns that were recently retaken from Russian forces, according to Ukraine’s Prosecutor-General Iryna Venediktova. Associated Press journalists saw the bodies of at least 21 people in various spots around Bucha, northwest of the capital.

Sullivan warned that the world “should brace” for additional potential war crime revelations.

Sullivan said “the Russians have now realised that the West will not break” in its support of the Ukrainian government. But he warned that Russia was redoubling its offensive in other parts of the country after pulling many troops from around Kyiv.

White House officials said talks about ramping up new sanctions against Russia intensified after reports of the alleged atrocities emerged.