US President Joe Biden on Tuesday said Russia’s war in Ukraine “amounted to genocide”, accusing Russian President Vladimir Putin of trying to wipe out the idea of even being a Ukrainian. “Yes, I called it genocide,” he told reporters in Iowa shortly before boarding Air Force One to return to Washington.”It is becoming clearer and clearer that Putin is just trying to wipe out the idea of even being a Ukrainian.”
This comes amid Ukraine’s investigating a claim that a poisonous substance was dropped on besieged Mariupol, as Western officials warned on Tuesday that any use of chemical weapons by Russia would be a serious escalation of the already devastating war.
As Ukrainian forces brace for a new attack, Deputy Defence Minister Hanna Maliar said it was possible phosphorus munitions, which cause horrendous burns but are not classed as chemical weapons, had been used in Mariupol.
Members of the US Congress said the Biden administration and its allies would not stand by if chemical weapons were used in the Russian war with Ukraine. Lawmakers monitoring developments during a trip to Poland said Tuesday that the US is investigating reports that a poisonous substance had been dropped in Mariupol.
But they cautioned that determining the nature of the attack in the beleaguered port city could take time. “We are taking those reports seriously and I know the United States government and others are trying to determine if that did indeed occur,” said Rep. Jason Crow, D-Colo. Crow said the administration has been very clear that the use of chemical weapons will not be tolerated.
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. Past American leaders often evaded formally declaring bloody campaigns such as Russia’s in Ukraine as genocide, hesitating to trigger an obligation under an international genocide convention that requires signing countries to intervene once genocide is formally identified.