As Russia persists with its military assault on Ukraine, US President Joe Biden has hardened rhetoric, calling Russia’s war in Ukraine “genocide” and blaming Vladimir Putin for attempting to “wipe out the idea of even being Ukrainian.”
He said, just before heading back to Washington on Air Force One, “Yes, I called it genocide. It’s become clearer & clearer that Putin is just trying to wipe out the idea of even being a Ukrainian.”
Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy applauded the statement, having previously encouraged Western leaders to use the term.
However, the US President didn’t announce new sanctions for Russia following the statement.
The United Nations elaborates genocide as “acts committed with the intention to destroy, in whole or part by part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group.”
Earlier, Biden accused Putin as a “war criminal” following the discovery of hundreds of dead civilians in Bucha, outside Kyiv, after the Russian occupation of the suburb.
Yet he didn’t use the term “genocide” up until now as the term has a strict legal definition. Biden added that it would be for lawyers to decide if Russia’s actions were in line with the definition of genocide, but “it sure seems that way to me,” he said.
Just a week ago, Biden called Russia’s actions “war crimes”, not genocide. However, during a trip to Europe in March, Biden came under fire for appearing to support a regime change in Russia, a radical move towards another nuclear-armed country. “For God’s sake, this man cannot remain in power,” Biden exclaimed then.
Later, he explained his comments, stating, “I was expressing the moral outrage that I felt toward this man. I wasn’t articulating a policy change.”