(NewsNation) — U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Thursday agreed that war crimes have been committed in Russia’s attack on Ukraine.
“Personally I agree,” Blinken said of President Joe Biden calling Russian President Vladimir Putin a war criminal saying, in his opinion, Putin is intentionally targeting civilians.
The White House had been avoiding applying the designation of war criminal to Putin, saying it requires investigation and an international determination. After Biden used the term in his speech Wednesday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the president was “speaking from his heart” and renewed her statements that there is a process for making a formal determination.
“Russia is committing war crimes and targeting civilians,” Britain’s U.N. Mission tweeted, announcing the call for the meeting that was joined by the U.S., France and others. “Russia’s illegal war on Ukraine is a threat to us all.”
Blinken also told reporters that the United States is concerned that China is considering directly assisting Russia with military equipment.
Blinken said that Biden will make it clear to Chinese leader Xi Jinping that China will bear responsibility for any actions it takes to support Russia’s aggression.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s office says Russia carried out further airstrikes on the besieged port city of Mariupol on Thursday morning, one day after his address to U.S. Congress.
Zelenskyy’s office didn’t report casualties for the latest strikes as the war rages for a fourth week. This news comes amid rescue efforts in the city after a theater where hundreds had been sheltering was bombed Wednesday in what Ukrainian authorities say was a Russian air strike. There are survivors but many remain trapped.
Russia denied striking the theater, which commercial satellite pictures showed had the word “children” marked out on the ground in front before it was blown up.
“People are escaping from Mariupol by themselves using their own transport,” Zelenskyy’s office said, adding the “risk of death remains high” because of Russian forces previously firing on civilians.
The presidential office also reported artillery and airstrikes around the country overnight, including in the Kalynivka and Brovary suburbs of the capital, Kyiv. It said fighting continues as Russian forces try to enter the Ukraine-held city of Mykolaiv in the south and that there was an artillery barrage through the night in the eastern town of Avdiivka.
Zelenskyy addressed the German parliament on Thursday for the first time, urging German Chancellor Olaf Scholz to tear down what he called a wall between “free and unfree” Europe and stop the war in Ukraine.
Ukraine says Russian forces are increasingly resorting to artillery and air strikes as their advance stalls. Western countries agree.
The Ukrainian General Staff says, “The enemy, without success in its ground operation, continues to carry out rocket and bomb attacks on infrastructure and highly populated areas of Ukrainian cities.”
Mariupol has suffered the worst humanitarian catastrophe of the war, with hundreds of thousands of civilians trapped in basements with no food, water or power for weeks. Local officials say missile strikes and shelling have killed more than 2,300 people. Russian forces began letting some residents out in private cars this week but have blocked aid convoys from reaching the city.
Viacheslav Chaus, governor of Chernihiv, reported 53 civilians including U.S. citizens had been killed there in the past 24 hours. The toll could not be independently verified.
Among the dead in Chernihiv was Jim Hill, an American man from Idaho, who had been seeking medical treatment for his partner.
In the capital Kyiv, a building in the Darnytsky district was extensively damaged by what the authorities said was debris from a missile shot down early Thursday.
Also Thursday, Russian artillery destroyed a school and a community center in Merefa, a city near the northeast city of Kharkiv, according to Merefa Mayor Veniamin Sitov. At least 21 people were killed.
In the meantime, peace talks have had limited progress. In Zelenskyy’s address to Congress, he asked the U.S. to “please take the lead.” In response, President Joe Biden announced an additional $800 million in security assistance for Ukraine. The new funding brings the total support to Ukraine over the past week to more than $1 billion.
Six nations have called for a U.N. Security Council meeting on Ukraine on Thursday afternoon, ahead of an expected vote Friday on a Russian resolution demanding protection for Ukrainian civilians “in vulnerable situations,” yet making no mention of Moscow’s responsibility for the war.
Kyiv and its Western allies believe Russia launched an unprovoked war to subjugate a neighbor that Putin calls an artificial state carved out of Russia. Moscow says it is carrying out a “special operation” to disarm it and “denazify”. Ukrainians on the ground continue to fight for their country.
More than 3 million Ukrainians have fled and thousands of civilians and combatants have died.