Speaking in Iowa shortly before boarding Air Force One to return to Washington, Mr. Biden said he meant it when he said at an earlier event that Mr. Putin was carrying out genocide against Ukraine.
“Yes, I called it genocide,” he told reporters. “It’s become clearer and clearer that Putin is just trying to wipe out the idea of even being a Ukrainian.”
Mr. Biden added that it would be up to lawyers to decide if Russia’s conduct met the international standard for genocide, but said “it sure seems that way to me”.
“More evidence is coming out literally of the horrible things that the Russians have done in Ukraine, and we’re only going to learn more and more about the devastation and let the lawyers decide internationally whether or not it qualifies,” he said.
Mr. Biden had previously said he did not believe Russia’s actions amounted to genocide, just that they constituted “war crimes”.
Past American leaders often have dodged 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. That obligation was seen as blocking President Bill Clinton from declaring Rwandan Hutus’ killing of 8,00,000 ethnic Tutsis in 1994 as genocide, for example.