President Joe Biden called Russia’s conflict in Ukraine “genocide,” accusing Russian President Vladimir Putin of attempting to “wipe away the notion of even being a Ukrainian.”
He told reporters in Iowa on Tuesday just before boarding Air Force One to return to Washington, “Yes, I called it genocide.” “It’s becoming increasingly evident that Putin is just attempting to eradicate the concept of being a Ukrainian.”
Biden had hinted that Putin was committing genocide against Ukraine at an earlier appearance in Menlo, Iowa, where he was speaking about rising energy prices as a result of the war, but he had provided no details. Following Biden’s public judgment, neither he nor his administration announced any fresh sanctions against Russia or aid to Ukraine.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy praised Biden’s remarks, saying that he had pushed Western politicians to use the phrase to describe Russia’s invasion of his nation.
He tweeted, “True words of a true leader @POTUS.” “In order to fight evil, it’s necessary to call things by their proper names. We appreciate the support offered thus far by the United States, but we urgently want more heavy weaponry to avoid more Russian crimes.”
Genocide is defined as actions performed with the “intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial, or religious group,” according to a United Nations convention to which the United States is a signatory.
Previous American presidents have avoided explicitly designating brutal campaigns like Russia’s in Ukraine as genocide, fearing that doing so would trigger an international treaty that forces signatory nations to intervene once genocide is legally declared. This commitment was perceived as preventing President Bill Clinton from labeling the death of 800,000 ethnic Tutsis by Rwandan Hutus in 1994 as genocide.
Biden said attorneys would have to evaluate if Russia’s actions exceeded the international definition for genocide, as Ukrainian officials believe, but “it definitely appears that way to me.”
“More and more proof of the horrific things that the Russians have done in Ukraine is coming out, and we’re just going to discover more and more about the damage and let the lawyers determine whether or not it qualifies,” he added.
Last week, Biden stated that he did not feel Russia’s conduct constituted genocide, but rather “war crimes.”
During a trip to Europe last month, Biden sparked outrage with a nine-word comment that appeared to favor regime change in Moscow, implying a radical turn toward direct confrontation with another nuclear-armed country. “For the love of God, this man cannot stay in power,” Biden declared.
“I was expressing the moral fury that I felt toward this individual,” he said a few days later. I wasn’t advocating for a policy shift.”