Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, and ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson shake hands at a signing ceremony.

Mikhail Klimentyev | AP Photo

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Donald Trump’s pick for Secretary of State refused to call Vladimir Putin a war criminal, even when confronted with of a long list of publicly-documented atrocities committed by the Russian military in Chechnya and Aleppo, Syria.

“I would not use that term,” Tillerson responded when asked by Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida (C, 74%) about his controversially soft stance on the country and its authoritarian head of state during the ExxonMobil CEO’s Wednesday confirmation hearing.

“Well, let me describe the situation in Aleppo,” Rubio responded, "perhaps that will help you reach that conclusion."

"In aleppo, Mr. Putin has directed his military to conduct a devastating campaign,” Rubio continued. “It should not be hard to say Vladimir Putin’s army has committed war crimes in Aleppo.”

In response, Tillerson repeatedly refused to comment on whether Putin committed war crimes in Aleppo, saying he would need to review both public and classified records.

The Florida Senator then turned to Putin’s record on freedom of the press, and the tendency for journalists critical of the Kremlin to disappear. He ran over a list of journalists and political dissidents in Russia who died under suspicious circumstances. Tillerson again was asked to respond, and would not condemn Putin for the murder of journalists under his watch.

Conservative Review has previously reported that Tillerson owes much of his private success to the Russian government under Vladimir Putin. In 2011, as CEO of ExxonMobil, Tillerson signed a multi-billion dollar deal with Russia’s Rosneft energy company, which is owned by the state. In 2013, he was personally awarded by President Putin with an “Order of Friendship” medal, which is the highest honor a foreign citizen can achieve in Russia.

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Jordan Schachtel is the national security correspondent for CR. Follow him on Twitter @JordanSchachtel

Nate Madden is a Staff Writer for Conservative Review, focusing on religious freedom, jihadism, and the judiciary. He previously served as the Director of Policy Relations for the 21st Century Wilberforce Initiative. A Publius Fellow, John Jay Fellow, Citadel Parliamentary Fellow and National Journalism Center alumnus, Nate’s writing has previously appeared in several religious and news publications. Follow him @NateMaddenCR and on Facebook