Senate bill would qualify Russia’s actions in Ukraine genocide
A bipartisan group of senators introduced a bill this week formally recognizing Russia’s actions in Ukraine as genocide, introducing the bill shortly after Ukrainian first lady Olena Zelenska delivered a speech. poignant address to both houses of Congress.
Sen. Jim Risch, R-Idaho, and Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., drafted the legislation that would condemn, among other things, Russia for “committing acts of genocide against the Ukrainian people” over the nearly five months of his invasion.
The measure also calls on the United States and its NATO allies to support the Ukrainian government in preventing further Russian aggression and to work alongside international courts and investigations to “hold Russian political leaders and military personnel accountable.” of a war of aggression, war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.
The legislation was supported by Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, DN.H., and Sen. Lindsey Graham , RS.C.
A number of supporters of the legislation have traveled to Ukraine in recent months and spoken of the brutality they witnessed when the bill was introduced.
“If you could walk the streets of Kyiv, Irpin and Hostomel like I did last month, and listen to the stories of what Russian soldiers did, that is genocide,” Risch wrote in part. “The international community is documenting numerous Russian abuses that constitute war crimes across Ukraine. It is time for the United States and the world to recognize it as such.
“Russia is trying to eviscerate not only the people and buildings of Ukraine, but it is also trying to eliminate the Ukrainian language, Ukrainian history and Ukrainian culture. This is genocide,” Cardin added.
Months ago, President Joe Biden himself called Russian President Vladimir Putin’s actions a genocide, which forced administration officials to defend the president’s decision to use the term “genocide” all the time. recognizing that there was an ongoing process to determine whether the atrocities in Ukraine meet the legal threshold to be labeled as such.
Both Russia and the United States are parties to the Genocide Convention, which in 1948 established the first internationally agreed definition of the crime of genocide and codified it as a violation of international law. Partly because of the Genocide Treaty, labeling a group’s actions as “genocide” can compel a nation to take action against the aggressor.
But Biden’s use of the word “genocide” was not an official statement and did not trigger any immediate policy change.
An investigation is still ongoing by the International Criminal Court in Ukraine to determine whether Russia’s actions constitute genocide. While Russia, Ukraine and the United States are not parties to the ICC – which means that the Court would generally not have jurisdiction – Ukraine has in the past “exerted its prerogatives to accept the jurisdiction of the Court” for crimes committed on its territory, meaning that the Court would be able to prosecute individuals internationally on behalf of the country.
And the Biden-Harris administration has in the past suggested it would cooperate with any ICC investigation into Russia’s war in Ukraine.
The bill introduced this week, if passed by both the Senate and the House, would codify those commitments into law.
“This resolution rightly condemns Putin’s systematic torture and murder of the Ukrainian people as genocide,” said Senator Blumenthal in supporting the legislation. “As Russian atrocities continue, the United States must stand against these crimes against humanity and designate Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism. The rule of law must prevail.
Blumenthal, along with Senator Graham, also introduced legislation that calls on the State Department to recognize Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism. Currently, only four countries have received such a designation by the US government: Cuba, North Korea, Iran and Syria.
Countries designated as such are subject to a number of limitations, including “restrictions on US foreign assistance; a ban on exports and sales of defense equipment; certain controls on the export of dual-use items; and various financial and other restrictions,” according to the State Department.
“Putin’s Russia deserves this designation,” Senator Graham said in a May statement introducing the legislation. “We should do everything we can to ensure that Putin’s Russia is marginalized as long as it engages in this behavior. This resolution sends a strong message to Ukraine: we are listening and we agree that Putin leads a nation that is a state sponsor of terrorism.
According Policy, all but one of the senators agreed to expedite the resolution recognizing Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism; Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., told the media that he was still reviewing the text of the bill.