The atrocities committed by Russian forces in Ukraine has finally been acknowledged by the US president as genocide. Joe Biden labelled his Russian counterpart’s actions with the term – which he previously avoided using – during a speech in Iowa.

Biden’s remark on the situation in Ukraine came as he blamed “dictator” Vladimir Putin for recent price hikes at US pumps. The price jumped 8.5% in the consumer price index compared to a year ago.

“Your family budget, your ability to fill up your tank, none of it should hinge on whether a dictator declares war and commits genocide half a world away,” Biden said. He also said that he would authorize “the release of 1 million barrels per day from the strategic petroleum reserve” in a bid to help “this Putin price hike.”

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Last week when Biden was asked directly if he thought the atrocities in Bucha were genocide, the US president responded saying at the time: “No, I think it is a war crime.”

However, when asked by reporters on Tuesday about the dramatic rhetorical escalation on what is happening on the ground in Ukraine, Biden said that he now believes Russia is waging a genocidal war in Ukraine.

“I called it genocide because it’s become clearer and clearer that  Putin is just trying to wipe out even the idea of being Ukrainian. The evidence is mounting,” Biden told reporters after his speech, according to CNN.

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Almost every day, Ukrainian forces are encountering new evidence of Russian atrocities with mass murders being committed – either by execution in occupied towns and villages or by bombarding civilian targets in cities. Russian soldiers have also engaged in widespread sexual violence, alleged abduction of municipal leaders and children. They have also been accused of forcibly deporting refugees to camps in Russia.

Even after the Bucha tragedy where hundreds of bodies were found scattered on streets, Biden and his aides said that the actions seen in Ukraine don’t rise to the “genocide” level.

“We have seen atrocities, we have seen war crimes. We have not yet seen a level of systematic deprivation of life of the Ukrainian people to rise to the level of genocide,” national security adviser Jake Sullivan said earlier this month.

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On Sunday, Sullivan told CNN’s Jake Tapper that it is more important to call out the atrocities rather than labelling it genocide.

“In my opinion, the label is less important than the fact that these acts are cruel and criminal and wrong and evil, and need to be responded to decisively,” he said.