Des Moines, Iowa: US President Joe Biden on Tuesday accused Vladimir Putin’s forces of committing genocide in Ukraine, the first time his administration has used the term.
“Yes, I called it genocide,” Biden told reporters travelling with him in Iowa, when asked about his use of the term during a speech earlier in the day.
“It’s become clearer and clearer that Putin is just trying to wipe out the idea of even being able to be a Ukrainian,” said the US leader.
Biden said it would ultimately be up to courts to determine whether Russia’s actions in its ex-Soviet neighbour — where it stands accused of atrocities against civilians — constitute genocide.
“We’ll let the lawyers decide internationally whether or not it qualifies, but it sure seems that way to me,” he said.
Biden added: “The evidence is mounting.”
“More evidence is coming out of literally the horrible things that the Russians have done in Ukraine.”
“And we’re going to only learn more and more about the devastation.”
Ukraine has been accusing Russia of committing war crimes since even before the discovery of hundreds of civilians reportedly killed in Bucha sparked an outpouring of revulsion.
Biden described Putin as a “war criminal” amid the global outrage and called on him to face trial over the alleged atrocity.
But the United States has stopped short of using the term “genocide,” in line with longstanding protocol, because of its strict legal definition and the heavy implication the accusation carries.
Biden first leveled the accusation at Putin during a speech about soaring gasoline prices earlier on Tuesday, saying Americans’ ability to fill up their tank should not “hinge on whether a dictator declares war and commits genocide half a world away.”
The Biden administration has sought to blame sharp rises at US gas stations on Putin’s invasion.
Biden had previously been asked by reporters whether the killings in Bucha amounted to “genocide” and he replied: “No, I think it is a war crime.”