Top U.S. and NATO officials declined Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union” to label Russia’s actions in Ukraine as “genocide,” at least not yet.
When asked whether Moscow’s aggression amounted to genocide, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said, “We will look hard, document everything we see” and “put it all together” for the “relevant institutions and organizations.”
Blinken did say that he believes Russian forces have committed war crimes in Ukraine since the invasion in February.
“We can’t become numb to this,” he said. “We can’t normalize this.”
Jens Stoltenberg, the NATO secretary-general, also would not use the word “genocide” when describing Russia’s conduct during its invasion of Ukraine.
“It is a brutality against civilians we haven’t seen in Europe for decades,” he said on “State of the Union.” “And it’s horrific and it’s absolutely unacceptable that civilians are targeted and killed.”
Stoltenberg did note the importance of the International Criminal Court opening an investigation into potential war crimes in Ukraine.
However, Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, in an interview taped for airing on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” did call Russia’s actions genocide.
“The elimination of the whole nation and the people, we are the citizens of Ukraine,” he said. “We have more than 100 nationalities. This is about the destruction and extermination of all these nationalities. We are citizens of Ukraine and we don’t want to be subdued to the policy of Russian Federation. This is the reason we are being destroyed and exterminated. And this is happening in the Europe of the 21st century. So this is the torture of the whole nation.”
The statements come as new images and reports continue to show the destruction of Ukrainian society and apparent targeting of civilian homes and buildings.
Speaking on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Blinken addressed the destruction that Putin’s forces have caused in Ukraine. “Even though he’s been set back, even though I believe this is already a strategic defeat for Vladimir Putin,” he said, “the death and destruction that he is wreaking every single day in Ukraine, the images that are on our TVs and on social media every single day, are terrible.”
Both leaders also expressed distrust of Russia’s claims of a partial withdrawal.
“What we see is not a real withdrawal, but a repositioning of its troops,” Stoltenberg said.
“And they are taking some of them back to rearm them, to reinforce them, to resupply them. But we should not in a way be too optimistic because the attacks will continue, and we are also concerned about potential increased attacks in the South and in the East.”