PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – House Republican Conference Chair Elise Stefanik (RN.Y.) on Thursday accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of genocide and war crimes in his country’s invasion of Ukraine.
“Putin is an authoritarian, he is committing genocide, he is a war criminal,” Stefanik told reporters at the House GOP’s annual retreat in Florida. “The House Republican caucus has been consistent in this.”
Stefanik’s remarks came little more than a week after President Biden called Putin a war criminal and just a day after the US made the formal determination that the Russian military has committed war crimes in Ukraine.
Stefanik and other House Republican leaders are hoping to use the three-day retreat outside of Jacksonville to hone the GOP’s messaging and unify the Republican conference around a singular agenda ahead of the November midterm elections, when the party will have a shot at recapping control of the House.
Her hardline remarks on Putin and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine marked a clear effort to stake out a clear stance on the crisis.
While most Republicans have been vocal champions of US efforts to support Ukraine, some in the party’s far-right flank – Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene or Madison Cawthorn, for instance – have been more equivocal in their stance and have at times gone as far as to echo Russian talking points.
Cawthorn drew intense criticism earlier this month after he described Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky as a “thug.” That comment drew a rebuke from House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) who called Cawthorn’s remark “wrong.”