Russian officials respond to Joe Biden’s claims Vladimir Putin has committed genocide in Ukraine

Russian deny there have even been any war crimes, other than those they say the Ukrainians have inflicted on themselves, as Political Correspondent Carl Dinnen reports

In eastern Ukraine, Russian soldiers have been using metal detectors to clear the ground for unexploded ordnance.

In the Kharkiv region of Ukraine, video released by the Russian Ministry of Defence shows a tank flying the Russian flag, emblazoned with the Z symbol that has become synonymous with Russia’s military assault on the country.

The soldiers sweeping the ground in the field have the Z sign pinned to their uniforms and, according to the Russian Ministry of Defence, are there "ensuring safety" while spring seeds are sown in the Kharkiv region.

They are there, according to the Ministry of Defence, to support civilians, removing unexploded mines and shells to help the local population continue their food production.

Investigators by a mass grave in Bucha. Credit: AP

The images presented by Russia are in stark contrast to very different pictures of Ukrainian civilians broadcast in recent days; with bullets in their heads, hands tied behind their backs and dumped in mass graves, allegedly victims of Russian war crimes in Ukraine.

Russia says its mission in Ukraine is a special operation, designed to free the Ukrainian people from Nazis and fascists. On Wednesday, US President Joe Biden called Russia’s actions “genocide.”

"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.”

"It's different than it was last week, the more evidence that's coming out," he said. "The horrible things that the Russians have done in Ukraine — we're going to only learn more and more about the devastation."

"We'll let the lawyers decide, internationally, whether or not it qualifies… but it sure seems that way to me."

When asked to respond to President Biden’s statement, Maria Zakharova, spokesperson for the Russian Foreign Ministry told ITV News “not all his statements are adequate.”

Appearing to question the US president’s mental capacities, Maria Zakharova said President Biden “makes statements with the help of people who write abstracts for him. Whether he read them correctly and got all the words and letters I can’t say.”

“At this serious moment, there is no possibility to consider these statements the official position of the state because America and the administration constantly disavow what their president says,” Zakharova told ITV News.

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When pressed to answer claims that Russia has committed genocide in Ukraine, Alexey Chepa, Deputy Chairman of the Russian State Duma Committee on International Affairs told ITV News that it was impossible Russia could have committed genocide.

He insisted that if Russia had committed such crimes, it would have done a better job at covering up the evidence.

“This cannot be, because this cannot be,” he said.

“Even if this had happened, the Russian forces were leaving [Bucha] over a day and a half and no one would have left them [the corpses] there.”

“It is possible to take these corpses, if they had been there, in 30 minutes. You can put them in a van with no difficulty. It is absurd. There is no logic to this. No one is trying to investigate it.”

Ukraine has invited war crimes specialists from abroad to investigate allegations of war crimes but Mr Chepa told ITV News it is Ukraine which is committing genocide “against their own people.”

“For Biden and others to call what is going on in Ukraine genocide is a lie,” Pyotr Tolstoy, Deputy Chairman of the State Duma told ITV News.

“Any military action has victims, including among civilians. It is unavoidable and it is the cost of war,” Tolstoy said.

Russia has repeatedly denied attacking civilians since it began its assault on Ukraine on 24 February.

On Tuesday, President Putin said images of dead bodies and multiple victims of execution in the Ukrainian town of Bucha were fake and Russian officials have dismissed reports that Russia has used chemical weapons in the country.

“Responsibility for this war is with Biden and the West who did not want to talk or listen to Russia. For the last 30 years, it acted like it won the Cold War and could behave towards Russia like a regional power.”

After six weeks of intense bombardment in the besieged city of Mariupol, there are now claims that chemical weapons have been used, reports Correspondent Peter Smith

The three senior Russian officials who spoke to ITV News today all said claims of Russian atrocities in Ukraine were faked and that nothing would stop Russia from achieving its aims in the country.

“Ukraine was never an independent country,” Pyotr Tolstoy, Deputy Chairman of the Russian parliament told ITV News. “Ukraine is a part of Russia and Ukrainians are the same kind of Russians as us but they speak in a slightly different language.

“The goals of the Russian operation in Ukraine are totally clear and they will be carried out. Ukraine will be demilitarised and it will have no weapons.”

Civilians who do not support the Russian ‘denazification’ of Ukraine, Tolstoy said, will have to leave the country, dismissing the plight of thousands of Ukrainians who have fled their homes under Russian bombardment.

“These people… will go to work as cleaners in Poland or maybe as waiters in London. When Russians sit in London restaurants, they will be served by people who speak Russian. It will be very convenient.”