US President Joe Biden said Tuesday the atrocities being uncovered in Ukraine qualify as genocide, saying "it’s become clearer and clearer that (Russian President Vladimir) Putin is just trying to wipe out even the idea of being Ukrainian."
Here's how we got to this point:
- The US President first referenced genocide on Tuesday when talking about rising gas prices.
- Later he reiterated his assessment to reporters, saying the "evidence is mounting, it’s different than it was last week, the more evidence that’s coming out."
- Biden has previously stopped short of calling what is underway in Ukraine a genocide. His aides have said it doesn't yet rise to the level.
- Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky — who has also used the term — thanked Biden for using it, saying they were "true words of a true leader."
- Last week, Zelensky accused Russia of committing genocide after a number of civilian bodies were uncovered in Bucha following the withdrawal of Russian troops.
- Other world leaders, such as the UK's Boris Johnson and Poland's Andrzej Duda, have also used the word "genocide" to describe Russian actions in Ukraine.
What is genocide?
- Genocide became a crime in 1948, with a UN treaty describing it “as a crime committed with the intent to destroy a national, ethnic, racial or religious group, in whole or in part.”
- Atrocities include killing members of a group or causing serious bodily or mental harm.
- The Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide was adopted by the United Nations after World War II.
- Genocide has often been described as the "crime of crimes."
- The word genocide was coined by Polish lawyer Raphäel Lemkin in 1944 to describe the Nazi's systematic attempt to eradicate Jews from Europe during the Holocaust.
- Genocide is difficult to prove in court because "intent" has to be established, according to the UN. Countries even differ over the exact definition of genocide.
When has the US used the term before?
- The US government rarely designates atrocities using the term genocide.
- Recent previous examples include the Chinese campaign against Uyghur Muslims and Myanmar’s persecution of the Muslim minority Rohingya.
- The US designation does not carry any legal ramifications but does carry significant weight as Biden seeks to rally countries behind a strategy of isolating and punishing Moscow.
- Some experts say it is too early to make the determination with certainty in Ukraine, but the issue should be "rigorously" investigated.