Biden Accuses Russia Of Committing ‘Genocide’ In Ukraine For First Time

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Topline

President Joe Biden called Russia’s actions in Ukraine a “genocide” during a speech in Iowa on Tuesday, an allegation he reiterated while speaking to the media later that day, marking the first time the president has used the term to describe Russia’s behavior since it first invaded the neighboring country over a month ago.

Key Facts

While speaking about federal efforts to mitigate soaring gas prices Tuesday, Biden said U.S. consumers’ budgets shouldn’t be affected when “a dictator declares war and commits genocide a half a world away”—an apparent reference to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Biden stood by the statement later Tuesday, telling reporters he used the word genocide “because it’s become clearer and clearer that Putin is just trying to wipe out the idea of even being Ukrainian,” according to CNN.

Key Background

The White House and U.S. officials have been cautious about which terms they use when describing Russia’s actions in Ukraine. The State Department did not formally accuse the Russian military of committing war crimes in Ukraine until March 23, nearly a month after the country began its invasion, though Biden deemed Putin a “war criminal” days prior. The United Nations defines the term genocide as—among other things—acts “committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group.” Defense intelligence from multiple countries has suggested Russia has intentionally targeted Ukrainian civilians in its strikes, or has been indiscriminate in its attacks, and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said last week alleged mass executions of Ukrainian civilians in a Kyiv suburb don’t “look far short of genocide to me.” However, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said in an interview Sunday the U.S. is still trying to determine whether Russia’s actions meet the legal definition of genocide.