DeSantis changes his tone on Ukraine, calls Putin a ‘war criminal’

    WASHINGTON — After downplaying Russia’s war on Ukraine as a “territorial dispute” in comments to Fox News, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis changed course in a new interview by calling Russian President Vladimir Putin a “war criminal” the consequences for his actions.

    “I think he’s a war criminal,” DeSantis told Piers Morgan in an interview Wednesday in the New York Postadding, “I think he should be held accountable.”

    DeSantis argued that his earlier statement to Fox News host Tucker Carlson was “mischaracterized” and that his “bigger point” was that he doesn’t think Russia “can take over Ukraine” or “threaten NATO” even if the U.S. don’t do that. increase its involvement. He said he was not suggesting that Russia’s invasion was justified.

    “I think they’re entitled to that area,” DeSantis said of Ukraine. “If I could snap my fingers, I would return it 100% to Ukraine.”

    In the Post interview, DeSantis took no position on the more complicated dispute within the GOP over whether the US should send more military aid or weapons to Ukraine.

    DeSantis, who has not yet announced his intentions, is widely expected to run for the Republican presidential nomination. Polls show he is the main alternative to former President Donald Trump, who is trying to make a comeback in 2024. If he runs, DeSantis would have to navigate a complicated GOP primary landscape, winning over a large swath of Trump supporters, as well as the former president’s skeptics, to clinch the nomination.

    DeSantis said in a statement to Carlson released on March 13, “While the U.S. has many vital national interests — securing our borders, addressing the preparedness crisis within our military, achieving energy security and independence, and controlling the economic, cultural and military power of the Chinese Communist Party – getting further entangled in a territorial dispute between Ukraine and Russia is not one of them.”

    His earlier remarks had drawn rebukes from numerous senior Republicans on Capitol Hill who support Ukraine in its defense against the Russian invasion.

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