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Ukraine’s defense minister urges EU to brand Putin a ‘war criminal’

Oleksii Reznikov tells bloc’s lawmakers that over 400 schools, 110 hospitals and 1,000 residential buildings destroyed since invasion’s onset; calls for stepped up military aid

Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov arrive to the talks between delegations from Ukraine and Russia in Belarus' Brest region, on March 3, 2022, following the Russian invasion of Ukraine. (Maxim Guchek/Belta/AFP)
Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov arrive to the talks between delegations from Ukraine and Russia in Belarus' Brest region, on March 3, 2022, following the Russian invasion of Ukraine. (Maxim Guchek/Belta/AFP)

BRUSSELS, Belgium — Ukraine’s defense minister on Thursday called on EU lawmakers to recognize Russian President Vladimir Putin as a “war criminal” and urged the bloc to step up arms supplies to fight Moscow’s forces.

The demand came after US President Joe Biden on Wednesday sparked Kremlin fury by dubbing the Russian leader a “war criminal” for his forces’ bombings of Ukrainian cities.

“It’s not simply a war. It’s state terror. The regular army of the aggressor is conscientiously annihilating the civil population,” Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov told EU legislators via video link.

“I’m appealing to all European Parliamentary members to recognize that Putin is a war criminal, as has been done in the United States.”

Reznikov pointed to the ferocious assault on the southern port city of Mariupol and the bombing of a theater where authorities said some 1,200 women and children were sheltering.

He said more than 400 schools, 110 hospitals and 1,000 residential buildings across Ukraine had been destroyed in the three weeks since Putin launched the invasion.

A person mourns next to a covered body near a residential building which was hit by the debris from a downed rocket in Kyiv on March 17, 2022. (Fadel Senna/AFP)

Ukrainian resistance and logistical problems have stalled Russia’s push for a lightning victory. Reznikov claimed more than 14,000 Russian soldiers had been killed.

The defiant minister insisted that Kyiv’s outgunned troops would eventually triumph over the Kremlin’s larger forces — but called on Europe to help supply more weapons.

“We will win. It’s a question only of the price which the Ukrainian people will pay,” Reznikov said. “The Russians can be stopped, victory can be gained, but we need assistance.”

He called for more financial help “very quickly” to help Ukraine acquire a raft of hardware including jets, armored vehicles, anti-tank and anti-aircraft systems.

The 27-nation EU has already stumped up 500 million euros ($550 million) to provide arms to Kyiv and there is a proposal to add an extra 500 million.

In this image released by Ukrainian Defense Ministry Press Service, Ukrainian soldiers use US Javelin missiles during military exercises in the Donetsk region, Ukraine, December 23, 2021. (Ukrainian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP)

Reznikov also called on the EU to ratchet up sanctions on Russia and put pressure on companies that have not stopped doing business in the country.

He fiercely criticized the West’s refusal to intervene directly to impose a no-fly zone over Ukraine.

“We will lose more and more lives and it will be more money European countries will pay later to help Ukraine rebuild,” he said.

“The longer you hesitate, the more it will be perceived by our children and grandchildren as a crime against Ukraine.”

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