Biden accuses Putin of genocide as US considers war crimes probe

Biden accuses Putin of genocide as US considers war crimes probe

Putin faces war crimes charges after Biden accused him of genocide: President says he will ‘let the lawyers decide’ as US considers backing international criminal court investigation into Bucha massacre

  • Biden has branded Russia’s atrocities in Ukraine a ‘genocide’ but said he would let his lawyers decide
  • Under international convention, a formal declaration of genocide normally requires countries to intervene
  • The White House is weighing up how much to involve itself in International Criminal Court war crimes probe 

President Joe Biden has for the first time accused Russia of carrying out a ‘genocide’, saying Vladimir Putin is 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, as he said he would ‘let the lawyers decide’. 

He added: ‘It’s become clearer and clearer that Putin is just trying to wipe out the idea of even being a Ukrainian.’

The admission comes as the White House debates how much to involve itself in the investigation into Russian atrocities by the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

The Biden team wants to see Putin and his military chiefs held to account for the war horrors and many believe the court set up to prosecute war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide able to secure justice.

Ukrainian and French forensics investigators place remains of burned civilians exhumed from a grave in body bags, amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, in the town of Bucha

French forensics investigators, who arrived to Ukraine for the investigation of war crimes, stand next to a mass grave

The forensic team exhume the bodies of a mother and two children buried near the mass grave by a church in the town of horrors

Volunteers load bodies of civilians killed in Bucha onto a truck to be taken to a morgue for investigation into possible war crimes

President Joe Biden has for the first time accused Russia of carrying out a ‘genocide’, saying Vladimir Putin is trying to ‘wipe out the idea of even being a Ukrainian’

But the government is bound by laws enacted by Congress in 1999 to 2002, intended to stop the court from investigating the US.

Previous administrations have also objected to the court’s jurisdiction over countries that are not part of the treaty that led to its formation, including the US and Russia, the New York Times reported.  

Officials believe that the best course of action is to now continue to compile evidence of war crimes, as a team of international investigators including a French forensic team visited the horror town of Bucha on Tuesday where Russia is accused of the torture and mass killing of civilians.    

But neither Biden nor his administration have announced new consequences for Russia or assistance to Ukraine following Biden’s public assessment of genocide.

The White House is debating how much to involve itself in the investigation into Russian atrocities by the International Criminal Court in The Hague

A volunteer rests after loading into a truck a plastic bags that contains the corpses of civilians killed by Russian soldiers

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

The prosecutor general of Ukraine, Iryna Venediktova, visits the exhumation of a mass grave with French forensic investigators

Neither Biden nor his administration have announced new consequences for Russia or assistance to Ukraine following Biden’s public assessment of genocide

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 (at)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. 

A French forensic team visited the horror town of Bucha on Tuesday where Russia is accused of the torture and mass killing of civilians

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

The forensic team exhume the bodies of a mother and two children buried near the mass grave by the church

Members of the international team of war crimes prosecutors including French Gendarmerie IRCGN speak to Prosecutor General of Ukraine Iryna Venediktova

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.’

‘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.’

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