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Following the invasion of Ukraine by Russia, many critics of Russia have argued that this war is a genocide against the Ukranian people. I don't feel the need to provide any evidence for this, but still, here are a few notable examples of supposedly impartial agents making such claims.

Joe Biden: https://choice.npr.org/index.html?origin=https://www.npr.org/2022/04/12/1092460473/biden-appeared-to-accuse-putin-of-committing-a-genocide-in-ukraine

Canada House of Commons: https://www.npr.org/2022/04/28/1095272683/canada-russia-genocide-ukraine

European Parliament: https://ukranews.com/en/news/846816-member-of-the-european-parliament-accused-russia-of-genocide-of-ukrainians-and-called-for-depriving

However, it is an apparent fact that Russia, if they so desired, could annihilate the Ukranian people with their 6.000 nuclear warheads. Yet, Russia have refused to use these weapons. While warfare in residential area has been waged, it has largely been done due to the presence of the Ukranian army in those areas. And while horrific war crimes have been committed by select Russian soldiers, it does not appear to be the motive of the Russian army in general (as evidenced by the fact that hundreds of thousands of Russian soldiers have apparently only been able to kill a few thousand civilians -- a ratio that doesn't really suggest they're all that interested in the civilians).

In the face of these apparent facts, what arguments and counter-counterarguments have the aforementioned critics of Russia offered in support of their claim that Russia is committing genocide?

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    Nuclear war is not the only form of mass destruction and so far nobody did it. Hopefully it's unthinkable for every sane person. This question might be seeing things a bit too black and white. Simply ask what evidence there is for a genocide should probably be enough.
    – Trilarion
    Apr 30 at 13:05
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    I am not asking for "evidence of genocide", since that does not exclude acts of individual Russian soldiers attemting such things. The argument made by the critics is that RUSSIA - the nation - is committing the genocide, as part of their war strategy. This is what my post is about, and this is why it's necessary to point out that RUSSIA - the nation - has means to commit genocide that it has not used. That was the entire point of the question. How you missed that, is beyond me.
    – Dukie
    Apr 30 at 13:07
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    There are so many quantitative levels of genocide. It doesn't need to be nuclear weapons or ABC weapons all the time. Shelling of civilian places or mass shootings are also part of that. And yes, I don't seem to get the question. Are you asking what evidence is there that the atrocities that are known so far are the product of a systematic strategy? I'm not sure what you want to know.
    – Trilarion
    Apr 30 at 13:12
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    Relevant question: Why is Russia not using nuclear weapons against Ukraine?
    – Erwan
    Apr 30 at 16:08

3 Answers 3

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In the most general sense, "genocide" is destroying a people.
The convention which specifies what that means tries to list various ways of how that may be accomplished.

To quote the United Nations Office on Genocide Prevention:

Article II In the present Convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:

  • Killing members of the group;
  • Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
  • Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
  • Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
  • Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group

The bold part indicates that there has to be intent. Russia has stated the intent to destroy Ukraine as a country and to erase Ukrainian national identity. Yale history professor Timothy Snyder breaks it down here.

Once the intent is stated, it remains to be seen if any of the components are present.

  • Is the Russian army "killing members of the group?"

YES. Well, obviously it is.

  • Is the Russian army "causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group?"

YES. In fact numerous reports of war crimes and atrocities committed by the Russian army have been reports of crimes committed against Ukraine's civilians.

  • Is Russia "deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part?"

MAYBE. There are reports that Russia is bringing Russian-language teachers into the occupied Kherson area to conduct all lessons in Russian and to remove all Ukrainian-language lessons in the occupied city. This hasn't been confirmed yet. So, at least for now, these can be dismissed as rumors. But they can't be entirely ignored because they are consistent with Russia's stated intent of erasing Ukrainian national identity.

  • Is Russia "imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group?"

MAYBE. Russia has been credibly accused of deliberately targeting for destruction maternity hospitals in Ukraine. I don't have the exact figures on this as reports trickled in one by one, as they happened.

  • Is Russia "forcibly transferring children of the group to another group?"

YES. And quite a bit. As many 183,000 children have been reported forcibly transferred to Russia and there are reports of forced illegal adoptions of these children by Russian families.

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  • "deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part?" — why MAYBE? Isn't a deliberate mass-scale assault and invasion of a country targeting (or at least deliberately disregarding) its civilians a proof enough?
    – jaam
    May 8 at 14:18
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Elimination of Ukrainians is not the goal of Russia, it is a means to the end. The end goal is elimination of Ukraine as a sovereign political entity and conversion of its territory with the remains of its people into either part of the Russian empire, or a territory controlled by Russia. A territory that is independent in name only, such as Belarus, Donetsk and Luhansk fake republics, Transnistria, etc.

As for genocide, it does not have to be complete or does not even have to eliminate most of the victims. Most of the world Jews continued to live long past the Nazi Holocaust, yet it is considered genocide by most serious researchers of the field. For example:

Genocide is the intentional destruction of a people — usually defined as an ethnic, national, racial, or religious group — in whole or in part.

Genocide - Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genocide
(boldface mine)

REFERENCES:

Definition

Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide Article II

In the present Convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:

  • Killing members of the group;
  • Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
  • Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
  • Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
  • Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

United Nations: Genocide: https://www.un.org/en/genocideprevention/genocide.shtml

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  • Then why aren't Russia using nuclear weapons to accomplish this?
    – Dukie
    Apr 30 at 15:13
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    @Dukie for two main reasons: (1) the fallout of a nuclear bomb on Ukraine would certainly reach Russia and make numerous Russian victims; (2) this would definitely trigger all the western nuclear powers to respond immediately by nuking Russia. Since Russia would also try to nuke these countries and China might get involved, such a world wide nuclear war would probably cause the end of the world before we even realize that it's happening.
    – Erwan
    Apr 30 at 16:01
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    @Dukie There are several reasons not to do it at this stage of the special military operation. Nuclear weapons may make the territory radioactive & thus not well-suited for an immediate occupation by the Russians (as was done, for example in Crimea when the territory liberated from Tatars was settled by the Russians). The radioactive fallout may prevent safe crop harvesting by the Russians in the area liberated from Ukrainians, which is a valid economic consideration. Mass killings are acceptable to the Russians, but they obviously have to be carried out to the Russian benefit. Apr 30 at 16:31
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There is a difference between genocide and more generic war crimes and crimes against humanity. What sets those apart is committing enumerated crimes with the

intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national [...] group

(UN Convention, Article 2).

It seems that President Putin made statements which deny the distinct national identity of Ukraine. If Russia also committed enumerated crimes, and did so to destroy this distinct national identity, then those crimes become genocide. The events in Bucha look like

(a) Killing members of the group;

while Mariupol could be argued to be

(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;

It will probably take a few years distance to get really down on the intent/motivation.

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