Florida governor Ron DeSantis (R.) in a Thursday interview called Russian president Vladimir Putin a "war criminal," a comment that distances the expected presidential candidate from his remark last week that downplayed the Ukraine war as a "territorial dispute."
"Obviously, Russia invaded, that was wrong. ... They invaded Crimea and took that in 2014, that was wrong," DeSantis told Piers Morgan. "I think [Putin] is a war criminal."
The Republican also said Russia is essentially a "gas station with a bunch of nuclear weapons."
DeSantis's comment comes after the Florida governor's "territorial dispute" comment drew criticism from Republicans including presidential candidate Nikki Haley and former vice president Mike Pence, who argued that American support for Ukraine serves the national interest.
"While the U.S. has many vital national interests ... becoming further entangled in a territorial dispute between Ukraine and Russia is not one of them," DeSantis said in a statement to Fox News's Tucker Carlson Tonight on March 13.
DeSantis told Morgan his comments had "been mischaracterized," adding that if he could "snap" his "fingers" he would give the taken land back to Ukraine.
"But the reality is what is America’s involvement in terms of escalating with more weapons, and certainly ground troops I think would be a mistake," DeSantis told Morgan.