UN Secretary General addresses Ukraine ‘genocide’ claims
The UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has not followed the example of US President Joe Biden and has stopped short of calling the events in Ukraine a “genocide.”
On Wednesday, a day after Biden appeared to endorse Kiev’s claims that the goal of the Russian offensive was to exterminate the Ukrainian people, Guterres was asked by a journalist if what is happening in Ukraine could be referred to as “genocide.”
“Genocide is strictly defined in international law. And for the UN, we rely on final legal determination by appropriate judicial bodies,” Guterres responded.
He added that the UN is “deeply concerned” with alleged “violation of human rights,” as well as with the “dramatic impact” of the conflict in Ukraine.
“But we leave the definition of whether there is or is not a situation of genocide to the judicial bodies that are relevant in this regard,” the Secretary General said, adding that the International Criminal Court had launched an investigation into the matter.
Earlier on Wednesday, French President Macron also declined to join Biden in describing the Russian military’s actions in Ukraine as “genocide,” stressing that he “would be careful with such terms.”
The leaders’ remarks came as the International Criminal Court’s Chief Prosecutor Karim Khan was visiting Ukraine, which he had called a “crime scene.” He pledged to “follow the evidence” during the investigation, while noting that the ICC has “reasonable grounds to believe that crimes within the jurisdiction of the court are being committed.”
Kiev accused Russia of genocide earlier this month after revealing disturbing images of what it claimed to be evidence of Russian troops having deliberately killed civilians in the town of Bucha, northwest of Kiev. Russia denied the allegations and said Kiev was manipulating and fabricating evidence to frame Russian troops and to undermine the peace process.
According to the UN Genocide Convention, the term “genocide” means the acts committed “with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group.” This definition covers killing members of the group, causing serious bodily or mental harm, deliberately inflicting damage on the group conditions of life, imposing measures intended to prevent births, as well as forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.
Russia attacked its neighbor in late February, following Ukraine’s failure to implement the terms of the Minsk agreements signed in 2014, and Russia’s eventual recognition of the Donbass republics of Donetsk and Lugansk. The German and French brokered Minsk Protocol was designed to give the breakaway regions special status within the Ukrainian state.
Russia has since demanded that Ukraine officially declare itself a neutral country that will never join the US-led NATO military bloc. Kiev insists the Russian offensive was completely unprovoked and has denied claims it was planning to retake the two republics by force.