"Yes, I called it genocide," US President Joe Biden says reporters in Iowa on Tuesday.
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."
Biden also said that Russia would "rhythmically and calmly" continue its operation and achieve its goals.
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"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."
Biden has repeatedly called Putin a war criminal, but delivering a speech at an ethanol plant in Iowa earlier on Tuesday the US president escalated his rhetoric to accuse Russia of genocide.
Russian President Vladimir Putin gestures during a meeting. File photo
"We'll let the lawyers decide internationally whether or not it qualifies, but it sure seems that way to me."
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.”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks in Kyiv. File photo
Russia has repeatedly denied targeting civilians and has said Ukrainian and Western allegations of war crimes are concocted.
Many towns Russia has retreated from in northern Ukraine were littered with the bodies of civilians killed in what Kyiv says was a campaign of murder, torture and rape.
Interfax Ukraine news agency on Wednesday quoted the Kyiv district police chief saying 720 bodies have been found in the region around the capital, with more than 200 people missing.
The Kremlin says it launched a "special military operation" on Feb. 24 to demilitarise and "denazify" Ukraine. Kyiv and its Western allies reject that as a false pretext for the invasion.
The southern port of Mariupol has become a focal point of Russia's assault and lies largely in ruins with bodies lying on the streets, but attacks were also reported to have intensified on the second city Kharkiv on Monday.
Biden's comments, an escalation of US rhetoric towards Moscow over its invasion of Ukraine, were not a call for regime change in Russia, a White House official said later, but meant to prepare the world's democracies for an extended conflict.
With President Vladimir Putin's forces tightening their grip on the strategically important city of Severodonetsk in the Donbas, its twin city of Lysychansk is now coming under heavier bombardment.
India's neutral stance in the war has raised concerns in Washington and earned praise from Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who lauded India this month for judging "the situation in its entirety, not just in a one-sided way.”
The UAE has strongly condemned Israel's decision to allow resettlements in the areas of north West Bank and authorise new settlement units in the occupied Palestinian territories.
The Secretary of the Gulf Cooperation Council, Jassim Mohammed Al Badawi, confirmed that the letter addressed to Blinken embodies the position of the leaders of the GCC states regarding the issue of Palestine, stressing that the issue of Palestine is “the first issue of Arabs and Muslims.”
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