Biden labels Russia’s war a ‘genocide’ and accuses Putin of trying to ‘wipe out Ukraine’

US president Joe Biden said Russia’s war in Ukraine amounted to “genocide,” accusing President Vladimir Putin of trying to “wipe out the idea of even being a Ukrainian.”

Yes, I called it genocide,” he told reporters in Iowa on Tuesday shortly before boarding Air Force One to return to Washington. “It’s become clearer and clearer that Putin is just trying to wipe out the idea of even being a Ukrainian.”

At an earlier event in Menlo, Iowa, addressing spiking energy prices resulting from the war, Biden had implied that he thought Putin was carrying out genocide against Ukraine, but offered no details. Neither he nor his administration announced new consequences for Russia or assistance to Ukraine following Biden’s public assessment.

Biden’s comments drew praise from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who had encouraged Western leaders to use the term to describe Russia’s invasion of his country.

“True words of a true leader @POTUS,” he tweeted. “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.”

A United Nations treaty, to which the U S is a party, defines genocide as actions taken with the “intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group.”

Past American leaders often have dodged formally declaring bloody campaigns such as Russia’s in Ukraine as genocide, hesitating to trigger an obligation that under international convention requires signing countries to intervene once genocide is formally identified. That obligation was seen as blocking President Bill Clinton from declaring Rwandan Hutus’ killing of 800,000 ethnic Tutsis in 1994 as genocide, for example.

Biden said it would be up to lawyers to decide if Russia’s conduct met the international standard for genocide, as Ukrainian officials have claimed, but said “it sure seems that way to me.”

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The forensic team works on the mass grave on April 12, 2022 in Bucha, Ukraine. The Russian retreat from towns near Kyiv has revealed scores of civilian deaths and the full extent of devastation from Russia’s attempt to seize the Ukrainian capital. (Photo by Anastasia Vlasova/Getty Images)

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“More evidence is coming out literally of the horrible things that the Russians have done in Ukraine, and we’re only going to learn more and more about the devastation and let the lawyers decide internationally whether or not it qualifies,” he said.

Just last week Biden said he did not believe Russia’s actions amounted to genocide, just that they constituted “war crimes.”

During a trip to Europe last month, Biden faced controversy for a nine-word statement seemingly supporting regime change in Moscow, which would have represented a dramatic shift toward direct confrontation with another nuclear-armed country. “For God’s sake, this man cannot remain in power,” Biden said.

He clarified the comments days later, saying: “I was expressing the moral outrage that I felt toward this man. I wasn’t articulating a policy change.”

Polish President Andrzej Duda and the presidents of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia are on their way to Kyiv to meet Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky today.

Russia vowed to continue its bloody offensive in Ukraine as the war neared its seventh week on Wednesday, as President Vladimir Putin insisted the campaign was going as planned despite a major withdrawal and significant losses.

Thwarted in their push toward the capital, Kyiv, Russian troops focused on the eastern region of Donbas, where Ukraine said it was investigating a claim that a poisonous substance had been dropped on its troops. It was not clear what the substance might be, but Western officials warned that any use of chemical weapons by Russia would be a serious escalation of the already devastating war.

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Leonid (L) with his wife Alla and son Ivan watch the forensics work on April 12, 2022 in Bucha, Ukraine. (Photo by Anastasia Vlasova/Getty Images)

Russia invaded on February 24 with the goal, according to Western officials, of taking Kyiv, toppling the government and installing a Moscow-friendly regime. In the six weeks since, the ground advance stalled and Russian forces lost potentially thousands of fighters and were accused of killing civilians and other atrocities.

Putin said on Tuesday that Moscow “had no other choice” and that the invasion aimed to protect people in parts of eastern Ukraine and to “ensure Russia’s own security.” He vowed it would “continue until its full completion and the fulfillment of the tasks that have been set.”

For now, Putin’s forces are gearing up for a major offensive in the Donbas, where Russian-allied separatists and Ukrainian forces have been fighting since 2014, and where Russia has recognized the separatists’ claims of independence. Military strategists say Moscow believes local support, logistics and the terrain in the region favor its larger, better-armed military, potentially allowing Russia to finally turn the tide in its favor.

In Mariupol, a strategic port city in the Donbas, a Ukrainian regiment defending a steel mill alleged that a drone dropped a poisonous substance on the city. The assertion by the Azov Regiment, a far-right group now part of the Ukrainian military, could not be independently verified. The regiment indicated there were no serious injuries.

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A satellite image shows buildings on fire in eastern Mariupol, Ukraine, April 9, 2022. Picture taken April 9, 2022. Satellite image 2022 Maxar Technologies/Handout

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said that while experts try to determine what the substance might be, “The world must react now.”

The claims came after a Russia-allied separatist official appeared to urge the use of chemical weapons, telling Russian state TV on Monday that separatist forces should seize the plant by first blocking all the exits. “And then we’ll use chemical troops to smoke them out of there,” the official, Eduard Basurin, said. He denied on Tuesday that separatist forces had used chemical weapons in Mariupol.

Ukrainian Deputy Defence Minister Hanna Maliar said officials were investigating, and it was possible phosphorus munitions — which cause horrendous burns but are not classed as chemical weapons — had been used in Mariupol, which has been pummelled by weeks of Russian assaults.

Western leaders warned that if chemical weapons are found to have been used, it would amount to a grievous breach of international law.

U.S. President Joe Biden for the first time referred to Russia’s invasion as a “genocide” and said “Putin is just trying to wipe out the idea of even being a Ukrainian.”

The Pentagon said it could not confirm the drone report but reiterated U.S. concerns about Russia using chemical agents. Britain, meanwhile, has warned that Russia may resort to phosphorus bombs, which are banned in civilian areas under international law, in Mariupol.

Most armies use phosphorus munitions to illuminate targets or to produce smoke screens. Deliberately firing them into an enclosed space to expose people to fumes could breach the Chemical Weapons Convention, said Marc-Michael Blum, a former laboratory head at the Netherlands-based Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

“Once you start using the properties of white phosphorus, toxic properties, specifically and deliberately, then it becomes banned,” he said.

In Washington, a senior U.S. defence official said the Biden administration was preparing yet another package of military aid for Ukraine to be announced in the coming days, possibly totaling $750 million. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss plans not yet publicly announced. Delivery is due to be completed this week of $800 million in military assistance approved by Biden a month ago.

In the face of stiff resistance by Ukrainian forces bolstered by Western weapons, Russian forces have increasingly relied on bombarding cities, flattening many urban areas and killing thousands. The war has driven more than 10 million Ukrainians from their homes — including nearly two-thirds of the country’s children.

Moscow’s retreat from cities and towns around Kyiv led to the discovery of large numbers of apparently massacred civilians, prompting widespread condemnation and accusations of war crimes.

Zelensky said evidence of “inhuman cruelty” toward women and children in Bucha and other suburbs of Kyiv continued to surface, including alleged rapes.

“Not all serial rapists reach the cruelty of Russian soldiers,” Zelensky said.

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A firefighter holds a hose next to a burning building, following a missile attack near the Kharkiv International Airport, as Russia’s attack on Ukraine continues, in Kharkiv, Ukraine, April 12, 2022.. REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis

More than 720 people were killed in Kyiv suburbs that had been occupied by Russian troops and over 200 were considered missing, the Interior Ministry said early Wednesday.

In Bucha alone, Mayor Anatoliy Fedoruk said 403 bodies had been found and the toll could rise as minesweepers comb the area.

Ukraine’s prosecutor-general’s office said on Tuesday it was also looking into events in the Brovary district, which lies to the northeast. It said the bodies of six civilians were found with gunshot wounds in a basement in the village of Shevchenkove and Russian forces were believed to be responsible.

Prosecutors are also investigating allegations that Russian forces fired on a convoy of civilians trying to leave by car from the village of Peremoha in the Brovary district, killing four people including a 13-year-old boy. In another attack near Bucha, five people were killed including two children when a car was fired upon, prosecutors said.

Putin falsely claimed on Tuesday that Ukraine’s accusation that hundreds of civilians were killed by Russian troops in the town of Bucha were “fake.” Journalists saw dozens of bodies in and around the town, some of whom had their hands bound and appeared to have been shot at close range.

Speaking at the Vostochny space launch facility in Russia’s far east, in his first known foray outside Moscow since the war began, Putin also said the West would fail to isolate Russia and its economy has withstood sanctions.

Addressing the pace of the campaign, he said Moscow was proceeding “calmly and rhythmically” to “achieve the planned goals while minimizing the losses.”

https://www.independent.ie/world-news/europe/biden-labels-russias-war-a-genocide-and-accuses-putin-of-trying-to-wipe-out-ukraine-41549035.html Biden labels Russia’s war a ‘genocide’ and accuses Putin of trying to ‘wipe out Ukraine’

Fry Electronics Team

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