On Monday, White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan did not call the Bucha, Ukraine killings “genocide.”
Images showing the bodies of civilians on the streets of Bucha, a suburb of the capital kyiv, have sparked international outrage. Earlier Monday, President Joe Biden called reports of numerous deaths – up to 300, according to the city’s mayor – “outrageous” and reiterated his belief that Vladimir Putin is a war criminal.
But the administration stops short of calling the Bucha killings “genocide,” as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has described it.
“We’ve seen atrocities,” Sullivan told reporters during the administration’s daily briefing. “We have seen war crimes. We have yet to see the level of systematic deprivation of life of the Ukrainian people rise to the level of genocide.”
But Sullivan said the assessment could change as more information is gathered by US officials.
The president “will not hesitate to call a spade a spade, call it what he sees fit, and neither will the US government,” Sullivan said. “As the facts develop, could we see ourselves coming to a different conclusion on this matter? Of course we could, but it’s going to be based on evidence and facts as we gather it along the way.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine began on February 24, and in the following five weeks more than 4 million people fled the country. According to the United Nations, 1,417 civilians were killed in Ukraine during the conflict.
Biden told reporters on Monday he believed Putin should be held accountable for his actions, calling for a war crimes trial against the Russian leader. “This guy is brutal,” the president said.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced on Twitter that the European Union would send investigators to Ukraine to help the local prosecutor general “document war crimes”.
Biden and Sullivan said Monday that additional sanctions against Russia would come in later this week. US and European allies have imposed sweeping sanctions on Russia’s financial system, oligarchs and more.
Zelensky said Confront the Nation Sunday that the actions in Bucha were “indeed” genocide.
“We are the citizens of Ukraine, and we do not want to be subject to the politics of [the] Russian Federation,” he said. “This is the reason why we are destroyed and exterminated. And this is happening in 21st century Europe.”
Newsweek contacted the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry to comment on Sullivan’s remarks, but did not receive a response before publication.
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