President Biden on Tuesday accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of committing a “genocide” in Ukraine. The president made the accusation in a speech at an ethanol fuel plant in Iowa, where he blamed the Russian invasion for higher gas prices.
“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,” Biden said.
Biden on why he used the word “genocide” in Ukraine
Asked later what made him use the word “genocide,” Biden replied, “Yes, I called it genocide. It has become clearer and clearer that Putin is just trying to wipe out the idea of even being—being able to be Ukrainian.”
Biden said the evidence against Putin and the Russian military was mounting.
“The…literally, the horrible things that the Russians have done in Ukraine. And we’re going to only learn more and more about the devastation,” he said. “And we’ll let the lawyers decide internationally whether or not it qualifies, but it sure seems that way to me.”
This is the first time Biden accused Putin of “genocide.” In early April, he called for the Russian leader to be tried for war crimes following the killings of civilians in the city of Bucha.
Biden said the images coming from Bucha warranted calling Putin a “war criminal,” adding, “but we have to gather the information. We have to continue to provide Ukraine with the weapons they need to continue the fight and we have to get all the details so this can be an actual…war-crime trial.”
Russia intensifies military campaign in eastern Ukraine
Biden’s accusation comes as Russia is intensifying its military campaign in the eastern part of Ukraine.
The port city of Mariupol has been a target for most of the nearly 50-day Russian invasion of Ukraine. Russia used amphibious landing ships in the early days of the invasion to bring troops outside of the port city.
While it took the Russians longer than expected to reach Mariupol, Moscow bombarded the city with missiles, hitting a maternity hospital and residences.
Ukraine still controls Mariupol despite concerns that it might soon fall to Russia, Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby told reporters Tuesday.
“You’ve seen the devastation that Russian airstrikes have wrought on Mariupol in the city, but our assessment is that the Ukrainians are still fighting for it,” he said.
Mariupol is a strategic target because the city would give Russia control of the Sea of Azov and create a land bridge to Crimea, Kirby said. It would also help Russia with its attacks on the Donbas region, the focus of Russia’s invasion the past couple of weeks.
Mariupol has been hit hard by Russian fire, with the mayor of the city telling the Associated Press that 10,000 civilians had been killed and the death toll is expected to climb.
There are reports that Moscow has used chemical weapons on the city, AP reported, but the Pentagon could not confirm this, a senior defense official said Tuesday.