From the very beginning of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, the term “genocide” has been used on several occasions.
The first instance of its use came from Russian President Vladimir Putin himself, who spoke of the “genocide of the pro-Russian population” of Donbass in his justification of the invasion of the country. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky later also used this term to describe the massive crimes committed against the civilian population and thus convince European countries and NATO to become involved in the conflict.
The question that arises, then, is whether genocide is indeed being committed by the Russian army against the Ukrainian people. In order to answer this question, we must return to the definition of the crime, as laid down in international treaties, respectively Article 2 of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide of 9 December 1948, and Article 6 of the Rome Statute establishing the International Criminal Court, which use, word-for-word, the same definition.
In this vignette, Professor Muriel Paradelle explains the fundamental element that distinguishes genocide from all other mass crimes, including war crimes and crimes against humanity.