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William & Mary professor, legal expert shares insight into Biden's ability to criticize Putin

The resistance to Russian forces is intensifying. Now in its fourth week of fighting, Ukraine has showed no signs of bowing down.

WILLIAMSBURG, Va. — Russia's advance into Ukraine appeared to stall on Thursday. However, the continued invasion and attacks on innocent civilians are painful reminders of the horrors in this war. 

On Wednesday, President Joe Biden made this statement about Russian President Vladimir Putin: "I think he is a war criminal."

"He actually laid the blame right at the feet of President Putin, calling him a war criminal. So it personalizes it," explained Dr. Nancy Combs, who specializes in international criminal law. "I also think it galvanizes support against President Putin." 

Combs is a William & Mary Ernest W. Goodrich professor of law, and the director of Human Security Law Center. She told 13News Now Biden's remarks were a rhetorically powerful move.

Prior to Wednesday, the administration presumably held out against making the statement "war criminal" due to ongoing war crime investigations against Putin. 

"The move in that rhetorical direction is simply a matter of one, the evidence is overwhelming at this point, and secondly, and it seemed to me like [Biden] was just speaking from the heart, speaking truth, calling a spade a spade," Combs said. 

The Kremlin spoke back to Biden's remarks, saying that kind of statement from Biden was "impermissible, unacceptable and unforgivable," adding that the U.S. has "for many years bombed people across the world."

"I think President Putin is a master of the concept that 'the best defense is a good offense.'  We have seen that at every stage of this invasion. and prior to that, in the invasion of Crimea," Combs said. 

She also told 13News Now she didn't foresee legal pushback against Biden for making the "war criminal" statement. 

The U.S. has committed to sending $800 million in military aid to Ukraine. That's in addition to a previous commitment of $200 million. However, Biden has firmly resisted imposing a no-fly zone.

"I think he is trying to thread the needle by providing as much assistance as is reasonably possible without getting us into World War III," Combs said.

This all comes just after the first American life was lost in the war in Ukraine.

The family of Jimmy Hill said he was gunned down by Russian troops, while in search for food with several other people.

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