President Joe Biden said Tuesday the atrocities being uncovered in Ukraine qualify as genocide, a designation he'd previously avoided but that he now believes is warranted as scenes of devastation emerge from towns once overrun by Russian troops.
"I called it genocide because it's become clearer and clearer that (Russian President Vladimir) Putin is just trying to wipe out even the idea of being Ukrainian. The evidence is mounting," Biden told reporters in Iowa after using the term earlier in a speech.
"It's different than it was last week, the more evidence that's coming out," he continued. "Literally, the horrible things that the Russians have done in Ukraine — and we're going to only learn more and more about the devastation."
"We'll let the lawyers decide, internationally, whether or not it qualifies," he concluded, "but it sure seems that way to me."
It was a dramatic rhetorical escalation in the US view of what is happening on the ground in Ukraine, which Biden has previously deemed war crimes. And it appeared to be the latest example of the President allowing his emotion-driven views of the war to outpace official US policy toward the conflict, even as he was voicing a position held by many Americans horrified by the scenes of brutality in Ukraine.
It garnered near-immediate praise from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who began accusing Russia of committing genocide inside his country last week.
"True words of a true leader @POTUS," Zelensky wrote on Twitter. "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."