It’s been 50 days since Russia invaded its neighboring country of Ukraine. The world has watched in horror as this conflict unfolded in real-time on billions of screens. As the war grinds on, Russian attacks become more atrocious every day.
Actor and activist George Takei once said, “I hear terrible echoes of the past.” The international community is beginning to hear these echoes coming from Ukraine. The word “genocide” carries a lot of weight in situations like these. It is defined as the mass extermination of a specific group of people and is considered the most severe crime against humanity. While the United States has been reluctant to use the term as it creates a need to intervene in a conflict, U.S. President Joe Biden showed no sign of this reluctance in his comments on April 12, 2022.
Per the BBC, President Biden clearly stated his stance that Russia is committing acts of genocide in Ukraine as Vladimir Putin is trying to extinguish Ukrainian identity. He cited the reports of devastation in Ukraine as evidence of this accusation, acknowledging that more discoveries would be made. President Biden added that attorneys would ultimately decide whether or not Putin and Russian forces have broken international laws.
Other world leaders were hesitant to embrace Biden’s bold statement. French President Emmanuel Macron was reluctant to use the term “genocide.” He told news outlets that President Biden should be “careful with such words.” Citing his desire to stop the war and restore peace, Macron commented he was uncertain that an “escalation of rhetoric” would help achieve this outcome.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has been very vocal in accusing Russia not only of genocide but of committing crimes against humanity. These accusations grew louder after the discovery of mass graves in Bucha. Zelensky heralded Biden’s words, calling them “true words of a true leader.”
President Zelensky also tweeted that in order to stand up to evil, it is essential to call things by their names.