Russian Actions 'Clearly' Genocide in Ukraine, Europe 'Funding' It: Cheney

Representative Liz Cheney, a Wyoming Republican, described Russia's alleged war crimes in Ukraine as "clearly" a genocide, criticizing European nations for "funding" the "genocidal campaign."

A number of international journalists have reported on Ukrainian civilians being shot in the back of the head with their hands tied in areas that Russia occupied for several weeks. There have been reports of mass graves with hundreds of bodies, and President Joe Biden has declared his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin to be a "war criminal."

During a Sunday morning interview with CNN, Cheney was asked about a Friday missile strike on a train station that left dozens of Ukrainian civilians dead as they attempted to flee westward.

"I think this clearly is genocide," Cheney responded. The congresswoman went on to say, "Europe needs to understand and grapple with the fact that you've got a genocidal campaign...I think also that the Europeans need to understand that they're funding that genocidal campaign. I understand the economic consequences to countries in Western Europe if they were to impose the kind of oil and gas embargo that the U.S. has imposed against Russian oil and gas, but they need to do it."

Liz Cheney
Representative Liz Cheney (R-Wyoming) accused Russia of "clearly" carrying out a "genocide" in Ukraine during a Sunday interview with CNN. Above, Cheney speaks during a committee hearing on Capitol Hill on March 28 in Washington, D.C. Drew Angerer/Getty Images

"We need to do everything we can to increase our own domestic production to help make sure we can supply them with as much as possible," the congresswoman continued. "But they need to understand that every single time, every single day that they are continuing to import Russian oil and gas—they're funding Putin's genocide in Ukraine."

Peter Stano, a spokesperson for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy at the European Commission, told Newsweek that normally they do not comment on remarks from individual lawmakers in third countries. However, he outlined some facts about Europe's response to the crisis.

Europeans "understand very well what is going on in Ukraine and are the first who is interested to see [an] end of the Russian invasion, since this is our direct neighborhood and we are witnessing a war directly at our doorstep, on our immediate borders," Stano said in an email. The spokesperson pointed to the billions of euros European nations have provided for humanitarian and military assistance to Ukraine, as well as the "4 million Ukrainians who fled the Russian bloodshed and shelling" who are now being cared for as refugees in Western Europe.

Western European nations have been largely aligned with the U.S. in imposing stringent financial sanctions against the Russian economy and Moscow elite, but have been reluctant to swiftly ban imports of Russian energy.

Newsweek reached out to the Russian embassy for comment.

Putin launched the full-scale invasion of Ukraine on February 24, bizarrely claiming that Ukraine was led by "neo-Nazis" and needed to be "de-Nazified." In reality, Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky is Jewish and had family members who died in the Holocaust genocide carried out by the German Nazis in World War II. When Zelensky was elected in 2019 with nearly three-quarters of the vote, Ukraine's prime minister was also Jewish.

Russia's unprovoked aggression received swift and widespread international condemnation. In a landmark United Nations General Assembly vote, 141 nations formally condemned Moscow's actions against its Eastern European neighbor. Only four countries—Belarus, Syria, Eritrea and North Korea—voted in support of Russia. Last week, the General Assembly also voted to suspend Russia from the United Nations Human Rights Council due to alleged war crimes in Ukraine.

Russia has said that the accusations of war crimes are not true. It has contended that many of the alleged war crimes are fake propaganda created by Ukraine, despite multiple international journalists corroborating the reports. Russia also accuses Ukraine of committing genocide against Russian speakers in Ukraine.

"The special operation in Ukraine is the result of the unwillingness of the Kiev regime to stop the genocide of Russians by fulfilling its obligations under the international commitments," the Kremlin's Ambassador to the U.S. Anatoly Antonov told Newsweek in an interview published Friday. There is little, if any, evidence to support this accusation. Zelensky himself is a native Russian speaker, who was criticized by opponents for not speaking Ukrainian well when he ran for president.

As Cheney pointed out, European nations have been reticent to cut off imports of Russian oil and gas. Europe currently depends on Russia for about 40 percent of its natural gas supply, Reuters reported. Last year, the European Union imported about $108 billion worth of energy from Russia, which was by far its biggest import from the nation, according to the World Economic Forum.

While the U.S. banned the import of Russian oil, it only accounted for about 8 percent of the nation's energy needs. The United Kingdom has said that it will wean itself off Russian energy by the end of 2022, but other Western European nations have taken less aggressive stances. However, Germany—the European Union's largest country by population—has said it is working to follow the British example.

"We are actively working to get independent from the import of [Russian] oil and we think that we will be able to make it during this year," Chancellor Olaf Scholz said during a Friday press conference.