Joe Biden accuses Vladimir Putin of committing genocide in Ukraine
Joe Biden has accused Russia of carrying out genocide in Ukraine, saying that Vladimir Putin is “trying to wipe out the idea of even being Ukrainian”.
Biden has been consistently outspoken in denouncing Russian wholesale killing of Ukrainian civilians, labelling Putin as a “war criminal” in mid-March. Multiple investigations are under way into Russian atrocities in Ukraine, which include the razing of Mariupol and the executions of civilians in the Kyiv suburb of Bucha.
The prosecutor at the international criminal court in the Hague opened a case in February saying there was “a reasonable basis to believe that both alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity have been committed in Ukraine”.
Proving a case under the 1948 Genocide Convention requires an “intent [by the accused] to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group”.
Biden first used the word in passing on Tuesday at a domestic policy event in Iowa about the use of ethanol in petrol.
“Your family budget, your ability to fill up your tank, none of it should hinge on whether a dictator declares war and commits genocide half a world away,” he said.
Questioned later on whether he intended to apply the term to Russians actions in Ukraine, Biden told journalists: “Yes, I called it genocide because it’s become clearer and clearer that Putin is just trying to wipe out the idea of even being Ukrainian.
“And the evidence is mounting,” he said. “More evidence is coming out of the horrible things that the Russians have done in Ukraine. And we’re going to only learn more and more about the devastation. We’ll let the lawyers decide internationally whether or not it qualifies, but it sure seems that way to me.”
His comments were quickly welcomed by the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, who applauded what he called the “true words of a true leader”.
“Calling things by their names is essential to stand up to evil,” Zelenskiy said on Twitter. “We are grateful for US assistance provided so far and we urgently need more heavy weapons to prevent further Russian atrocities.”
Prior to his invasion, Putin described Ukrainian separate existence as illegitimate, as he argued that Russians and Ukrainian were one people.
As well as wholesale killing of civilians, Russia has been accused of the forcible transfer of captured Ukrainian civilians into Russia, including large numbers of children, while changing the rules to make it easier for Russian families to adopt them.
Determining the line between crimes against humanity and genocide has sometimes proved difficult and divisive. The international criminal tribunal for the former Yugoslavia ruled that the slaughter of Bosnian Muslims in Srebrenica constituted genocide but not the mass killings carried out by Serb forces in other municipalities, a distinction that outraged the populations of the other devastated towns.