Is Russia’s violence in Ukraine a genocide? Trudeau says ‘absolutely right’ to consider

Click to play video: 'Russia-Ukraine conflict: Trudeau agrees with Biden’s assessment that Russia committing ‘genocide’ in Ukraine'
Russia-Ukraine conflict: Trudeau agrees with Biden’s assessment that Russia committing ‘genocide’ in Ukraine
WATCH: Russia-Ukraine conflict: Trudeau agrees with Biden's assessment that Russia committing 'genocide' in Ukraine – Apr 13, 2022

Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Wednesday that it’s right for people to consider whether Russia’s war in Ukraine amounts to genocide.

Trudeau’s comment comes a day after U.S. President Joe Biden said Russia’s behaviour in Ukraine amounted to, in his view, genocide. It’s the first time Biden has used the word to describe the invasion.

“I think as President Biden highlighted, there are official processes around determinations of genocide, but I think it’s absolutely right that more and more people be talking and using the word genocide in terms of what Russia is doing, what Vladimir Putin has done,” Trudeau told reporters.

Click to play video: '‘Immense suffering’: Exhausted Ukrainians dread Russia’s possible new offensive'
‘Immense suffering’: Exhausted Ukrainians dread Russia’s possible new offensive

What is genocide?

Under international law, genocide is an intent to destroy – in whole or in part – a national, ethnic, racial or religious group.

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According to the UN convention, genocide is done through killings, serious bodily or mental harm, inflicting lethal conditions and measures to prevent births, among other means.

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The International Criminal Court also defines genocide in the same way.

Trudeau said targeted attacks against civilians and hospitals, the “deliberate use of sexual violence against the Ukrainian population as a way of creating horrific scenes,” and “the way they’re attacking Ukrainian identity and culture” are all war crimes that Putin is responsible for.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has killed thousands and displaced millions.

Moscow calls its actions in Ukraine a “special military operation” to destroy Ukraine’s military capabilities and capture what it says are dangerous nationalists, but Ukraine and the West say Russia launched an unprovoked war of aggression.

How is Canada assisting the International Criminal Court?

Putin has dismissed Ukrainian and western claims that Russia has committed war crimes as fakes.

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Since Russian troops withdrew from towns and villages around the Ukrainian capital Kyiv, Ukrainian troops have found the bodies of what they say are civilians killed by Russian forces.

In Bucha — a town of roughly 35,000 — Ukrainian troops and journalists saw bodies of what appeared to be civilians in the streets, some with evidence suggesting they were killed at close range.

“Canada was one of the first countries to move forward at the International Criminal Court to hold Vladimir Putin and his cronies responsible for what is going on in the illegal invasion of Ukraine,” said Trudeau, “and we’re also dispatching RCMP investigators to make sure the full truth is known and that Putin be held fully to account.”

The RCMP launched an investigation earlier in April through the federal war crimes program to ensure important information and evidence is gathered from Ukrainians fleeing to Canada.

Click to play video: 'Russia-Ukraine conflict: Building the case for war crimes against Vladimir Putin'
Russia-Ukraine conflict: Building the case for war crimes against Vladimir Putin

Canada has also already dispatched RCMP officers to The Hague to assist the International Criminal Court investigation into possible war crimes by Russia.

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The ICC launched the probe on March 2 after Canada, along with 38 member states, urged it to launch an investigation. The referrals allowed the ICC to fast-track an investigation, giving the prosecutor the ability to skip seeking the approval of the court in The Hague, which would have been a months-long process.

— with files from Reuters and The Associated Press

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