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Biden calls Putin a 'war criminal'; Putin: 'Will put you in your place'

Emerging as a master-orator, Zelensky captivated the US Congress with his emotional, inspiring speech comparing Ukraine's devastation to 9/11 to better drive home why he needs military aid, and quoting Martin Luther King to focus on what is at stake. Biden's response was immediate, instantly releasing a military assistance of $ 1 billion and an additional pack of anti-aircraft fighters. And he followed it up with the tweets against Putin.

NEW DELHI, March 17: US President Joe Biden castigated the Russians for "inflicting appalling devastation and horror on Ukraine" in an unprovoked invasion and called President Vladimir Putin a "war criminal" in a series of tweets on Thursday. Putin responded, warning the US, "We have the might to put you in your place."

Dmitry Medvedev, deputy secretary of Russia's Security Council, said the US was kicking up a "disgusting" phobia to destroy Russia. "It will not work - Russia has the might to put all of our brash enemies in their place," he said.

Biden's harsh remarks were prompted by, apart from the shocking countrywide devastation, the Russian bombing of a theatre in Mariupol sheltering hundreds of civilians on Wednesday. Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry on Thursday accused Russia of committing war crimes. Russian troops have laid siege to the port city since last week. Earlier, a maternity hospital was shelled in the city, leading to heavy casualties of mothers and babies and causing "colossal damage" to the complex. Wounded, bleeding pregnant women were seen being helped out in stretchers.

Kremlin responded to Biden's remark saying, it is "unacceptable and unforgivable on the part of the head of state, whose bombs have killed hundreds of thousands of people around the world."

Soon after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky delivered his emotional, inspiring video speech to the US Congress on Wednesday, Biden had announced further aid to Ukraine. The aid included $ 1 billion military assistance and long-range anti-aircraft missile systems and drones. In a year now the US has given a total of $ 2 billion to Ukraine.

Zelensky's appealing speech to US Congress

Zelensky told the US Congress, "Russia has not attacked just us, not just our cities, not just our land, ... it went on a brutal offensive against our values, our freedom, our right to live freely, our national dreams same as you have". He referred to 9/11 and appeared to ask how did you feel. Russia has turned Ukraine skies into a source of death similarly, when innocent people were attacked, he said. If a no-fly zone "is too much to ask" "we offer an alternative:" Give the air defence system, fighter jets. He also referred to Pearl Harbour. Invoking Martin Luther King's famous speech, he said: "We have a dream. Have a need. I need to protect our skies." He also lamented that the institutions established to prevent wars have failed. He showed the lawmakers videos of appalling scenes of devastation wrought by Russian military attacks. A stunned House gave a spontaneous, standing ovation without prejudice to party affiliations. Accolades were pouring in from around the world for the actor- turned politician. According to reports, some compared his speech to Winston Churchill's.

Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said efforts are under way to evacuate civilians trapped in cities devastated by Russian attacks through nine “humanitarian corridors” on Thursday. Several of the cities have been surrounded by advancing Russian troops. Capital Kyiv's streets are almost deserted with most people having evacuated.

In an escalation of the fighting to the western region, missiles hit a depot in Sarny, Rivne region, destroying a military depot stocking missiles and ammunition, the Russian Defence Ministry claimed on Thursday. In north-east Kharkiv 500 residents have been killed. Across Ukraine, several hospitals, airports, residential apartments, cities, military bases and hundreds of educational establishments have been destroyed.

Nine captured Russian soldiers were swapped for the release of Ivan Fedorov, mayor of Melitopol, kidnapped last Friday by Russian forces. Meanwhile, Ukrainians shelled the airport in Kherson to prevent Russians from taking away military equipment. Kherson is the only city fully taken control of by the Russians till date. Kherson taken, the Russians can establish supplies to peninsular Crimea seized in 2014. When Melitopol and Mariupol too fall, the invaders will have unrestrained land access along the south-east coast to Crimea.

Ukraine has deployed Stringer surface-to-air missile, Next Generation Light Anti-Tank Weapon (NLAW), Javelin Anti-Tank Guided Missile and Turkish Bayraktar TB2 anti-armour drones.

According to the United Nations, three million people have left Ukraine for neighbouring Poland, Hungary and other countries.

Neutrality proposal at talks

Meanwhile, the video talks between Russian and Ukraine continued on Thursday. Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova said they are discussing military, political and humanitarian issues. Ukraine had earlier rejected the neutrality model of Austria and Sweden which Russia had proposed and wanting to talk on "security guarantees". The Kremlin said on Wednesday that a demilitarised Ukraine like Austria and Sweden is a possible compromise. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov was quoted as saying by RIA. Demilitarisation is an approximation to neutrality.

German deputies gave Zelensky a standing ovation on Thursday before his video address to the Bundestag lower house, a day after his emotional appeal for help before the US Congress, which earned him accolades across parties.

Calling out the domestic critics as "scum and traitors", Putin warned them, Any people, and particularly the Russian people, will always be able to tell apart the patriots from the scum and traitors and spit them out like a midge that accidentally flew into their mouths." Russia calls its assault on Ukraine a "special military operation" against what it calls a fascist regime in Kyiv.

In a daring expression of solidarity and support, the Prime Ministers of Poland, Slovenia and the Czech Republic arrived in Kyiv on Tuesday and held talks with the Ukrainian President. Biden will also visit Europe next week following Vice- President Kamala Harris visit to Poland last week.

Meanwhile, the White House has repeatedly stated that India will stand up against the Russian Invasion. “As you know, we remain in touch through a range of channels from our national security team with leaders in India and continue to encourage leaders to work closely with us to stand up against President Putin’s invasion of Ukraine,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters on Wednesday.

Simply put,

Russia has been publicly claiming that the invasion is a "special military operation" to "demilitarise" and "denazify" Ukraine. Under what authority?

Without an occasion, nor a provocation, Putin had asked Ukraine, an independent country, to give guarantee that it will not join NATO, else it will attack!

An invasion that resembles a medieval aggression swallowing up neighbouring smaller countries like “big fish eating small fish” while all others are watching. An invasion propelled by a sick Putin's theory that Russian sovereignty extends over neighbouring territories.

Or, it's the Panchatantra tale coming alive! Of the wolf cooking up a ruse to tear into the lamb at downstream.

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