President Biden on Tuesday accused Russia of committing genocide in Ukraine, saying “it’s become clearer and clearer” that Russian President Vladimir Putin “is just trying to wipe out even the idea of being Ukrainian.”
The big picture: While Biden had accused Putin and Russian forces of committing war crimes, the U.S. had previously refrained from using the term “genocide” to describe Russia’s actions in Ukraine.
- National security adviser Jake Sullivan said earlier this month that the administration “not yet seen a level of systematic deprivation of life of the Ukrainian people to rise to the level of genocide” in Ukraine.
What they’re saying: “Your family budget, your ability to fill up your tank, none of it should hinge on whether a dictator declares war and commits genocide, a half a world away,” Biden said earlier Tuesday while addressing rising consumer costs during his remarks in Iowa.
- In comments to reporters later Tuesday, he said: “Yes, I called it genocide, because it’s become clearer and clearer that Putin is just trying to wipe out even the idea of being Ukrainian, and the evidence is mounting.”
- “The evidence is mounting. It looks different than last week. More evidence is coming out literally of the horrible things that the Russians have done in Ukraine,” he added.
- “And we’re gonna only learn more and more about the devastation and we’ll let the lawyers decide internationally whether or not it qualifies but it sure seems that way to me.”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky tweeted later Tuesday: “True words of a true leader @POTUS. Calling things by their names is essential to stand up to evil.”
- “We are grateful for US assistance provided so far and we urgently need more heavy weapons to prevent further Russian atrocities,” he added.
Driving the news: Zelensky accused Russian forces of committing genocide earlier this month after reports and images emerged showing bodies of civilians — some with their hands tied behind their backs — strewn in the streets of the city of Bucha.
- Since the start of the invasion Russia has denied accusations that it has targeted civilians or committed war crimes in Ukraine. The Kremlin called Biden’s “war criminal” comments “unacceptable.”
- Russia’s chief investigator last week ordered an investigation into what he described as a Ukrainian “provocation,” following Kyiv’s allegations that Russian forces massacred civilians in Bucha, per Reuters.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated with additional details throughout.