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Russia summons US ambassador, warns relationship is ‘on the verge of a breach’

Moscow expresses anger at Biden’s labeling of Putin as a ‘war criminal’ in remarks ‘which are unworthy of a state figure of such a high rank’

US President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin, arrive to meet at the 'Villa la Grange,' June 16, 2021, in Geneva, Switzerland. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
US President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin, arrive to meet at the 'Villa la Grange,' June 16, 2021, in Geneva, Switzerland. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

Russia warned on Monday that relations with the US are “on the verge of a breach,” and summoned the US ambassador for an official protest against President Joe Biden’s criticism of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

A Russian Foreign Ministry statement Monday referred to “recent unacceptable statements” by Biden about Putin. Biden referred to Putin last week as a “war criminal” in relation to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The Foreign Ministry said that, at the meeting with US Ambassador to Moscow John Sullivan, “it was emphasized that remarks such as these by the American president, which are unworthy of a state figure of such a high rank, put Russian-American relations on the verge of a breach.”

Last week, after listening to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s speech to Congress, Biden called Putin “a war criminal” — the sharpest condemnation yet of Putin and Russian actions by a US official since the invasion of Ukraine. Biden noted that Russia has bombed hospitals and held doctors hostage.

“We are united in our abhorrence of Putin’s depraved onslaught, and we’re going to continue to have their backs as they fight for their freedom, their democracy, their very survival,” he said of Ukraine.

A day earlier, the US Senate unanimously approved a resolution seeking investigations of Putin and his regime for war crimes over the invasion of Ukraine.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky virtually addresses the US Congress on March 16, 2022, at the US Capitol Visitor Center Congressional Auditorium, in Washington, DC. (J. Scott Applewhite / POOL / AFP)

The bipartisan measure from Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham says the Senate strongly condemns the “violence, war crimes, crimes against humanity” being carried out by Russian military forces under Putin’s direction. It encourages international criminal courts to investigate Putin, his security council, and military leaders for possible war crimes.

Also last week, Russia’s foreign ministry said that Biden and a dozen other top US officials have been banned from entering the country in a reciprocal response to US sanctions.

The measure, which also applies to Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, “is the consequence of the extremely Russophobic policy pursued by the current US administration,” the Russian foreign ministry said in a statement.

In response to Russia’s military intervention in Ukraine, the United States banned Putin and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, and has adopted sanctions that have cut off much of Russia’s financial ties with the rest of the world.

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