US President Joe Biden accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of committing “genocide” in Ukraine for the first time on Tuesday.
Biden was speaking about his administration’s efforts to combat rising fuel costs because of the war, when he described the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which has seen Moscow carry out atrocities against Ukrainian civilians, as a “genocide.”
“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,” he said.
Asked by reporters about his characterization, Biden said: “I called it genocide because it has become clearer and clearer that Putin is just trying to wipe out the idea of being able to be Ukrainian and the evidence is mounting.”
He added: “We'll let the lawyers decide internationally whether or not it qualifies, but it sure seems that way to me.”
Biden has previously labelled Russian President Vladimir Putin as a “war criminal” and Washington has repeatedly described Russian atrocities against Ukrainians as “war crimes.”
However, the US administration has said Russian actions did not rise up to the level of genocide.
Last week, national security adviser Jake Sullivan said: “Based on what we have seen so far, we have seen atrocities, we have seen war crimes. We have not yet seen a level of systematic deprivation of life of the Ukrainian people to rise to the level of genocide.”
Meanwhile, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has called on the world to acknowledge that Russia was committing a genocide against Ukraine, especially after the horrific images of atrocities committed by Russian forces against Ukrainian civilians in the town of Bucha.
“These are war crimes, and they will be recognized by the world as genocide. We are aware of thousands of people killed and tortured, with their limbs cut off. Raped women, murdered children. I believe this is genocide,” Zelenskyy said.