Biden on Putin in Russia: ‘This man can’t stay in power’

WARSAW, Poland — President Joe Biden said Saturday that Vladimir Putin “cannot stay in power,” dramatically escalating the rhetoric against the Russian leader following his brutal invasion of Ukraine.

Even as Biden’s words exploded around the world, the White House tried to clarify shortly after Biden finished speaking in Poland that he was not calling for a new government in Russia.

A White House official claimed Biden was “not discussing Putin’s power in Russia or regime change.” The official, who was not authorized to comment by name and spoke on condition of anonymity, said Biden’s view was that “Putin cannot be allowed to wield power over his neighbors or the region”.

The White House declined to say whether Biden’s statement about Putin was part of his prepared remarks.

“For the love of God, this man can’t stay in power,” Biden said at the very end of a speech in the Polish capital that served as the culmination of a four-day trip to Europe.

Biden has often spoken of making the Kremlin invasion a “strategic failure” for Putin and described the Russian leader as a “war criminal”. But until his remarks in Warsaw, the US leader had not deviated from suggesting that Putin should not lead Russia. Earlier Saturday, shortly after meeting with Ukrainian refugees, Biden called Putin a “butcher.”

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told The Associated Press that “it’s not up to the President of the United States or the Americans to decide who stays in power in Russia.”

“Only the Russians, who vote for their president, can decide that,” Peskov added. “And of course it is improper for the President of the United States to make such statements.”

Asked about the impact of such statements by Biden on Russian-American relations, Peskov described them as “extremely negative.” “With each of these statements, and Biden now prefers to make them daily, he is narrowing the window of opportunity for our bilateral relationship under the current administration,” Peskov said.

Last week, the Russians warned John Sullivan, the US ambassador to Moscow, that diplomatic relations were in jeopardy because Washington had imposed painful economic sanctions on Russia. On Thursday, the Russians declared nearly a dozen diplomats at the US embassy as “persona non grata”, paving the way for their expulsion. The embassy’s staff is already stretched thin, and US officials have said further cuts would make it difficult, if not impossible, to operate.

Biden also used his speech to vehemently defend liberal democracy and the NATO military alliance, while saying Europe must prepare for a long fight against Russian aggression.

Earlier today, as Biden met with Ukrainian refugees, Russia continued to shell towns across Ukraine. Explosions sounded in Lviv, the closest major Ukrainian city to Poland and a destination for internally displaced people that has been largely spared major attacks.

Images of Biden reassuring refugees and calling for Western unity contrasted with the dramatic scenes of flames and black smoke billowing so close to the Polish border – another jarring split-screen moment from the war.

In what was touted by the White House as a major address, Biden spoke inside the Royal Castle, one of Warsaw’s notable landmarks that was badly damaged during World War II.

He borrowed the words of Polish-born Pope John Paul II and quoted anti-communist Polish dissident and former president Lech Walesa as he warned that Putin’s invasion of Ukraine threatened to bring decades of war”.

“In this battle, we must be lucid. This battle will also not be won in days, nor in months,” Biden said.

The crowd of around 1,000 included some of the Ukrainian refugees who fled to Poland and elsewhere amid the brutal invasion.

“We have to commit now, to be this fight for the long haul,” Biden said.

Biden also chastised Putin for his claim that the invasion was aimed at “denazifying” Ukraine. The President of Ukraine. Volodymyr Zelensky, is Jewish and his father’s family died in the Holocaust.

“Putin has the nerve to say he denazifies Ukraine. It’s a lie,” Biden said. “It’s just cynical. He knows it and it is also obscene.

Biden also tried to link the invasion to the former Soviet Union’s history of brutal oppression, including post-World War II military operations to stamp out pro-democracy movements in Hungary, Poland and in what was then Czechoslovakia.

The president defended the 27-member NATO alliance which Moscow says is increasingly a threat to Russian security. He noted that NATO had worked for months through diplomatic channels to try to prevent the invasion of Russia.

The war has led the United States to increase its military presence in Poland and Eastern Europe, and Nordic countries like Finland and Sweden are now considering applying to join NATO.

“The Kremlin wants to portray NATO expansion as an imperial project to destabilize Russia,” Biden said. “NATO is a defensive alliance that has never sought Russia’s demise.”

After meeting refugees at the National Stadium, Biden marveled at their spirit and determination in the aftermath of Russia’s deadly invasion as he embraced mothers and children and pledged continued support from Western powers.

Biden listened intently as the children described the perilous flight from neighboring Ukraine with their parents. With a broad smile, he picked up a young girl in a pink coat and told her that she reminded him of his granddaughters.

The president held parents’ hands and kissed them during the stop at the football stadium where refugees go to get a Polish ID number that gives them access to social services such as health care and schools .

Some of the women and children told Biden they had fled without their husbands and fathers, men of fighting age who were to stay to help the resistance against Putin’s forces.

“What always amazes me is the depth and strength of the human spirit,” Biden told reporters after his conversations with refugees at the stadium, which more recently had served as a field hospital for patients with the disease. of COVID-19. “Each of those kids said something like, ‘Say a prayer for my dad or my grandfather or my brother who’s fighting over there.’

The president spent time reassuring Poland that the United States would defend itself against any Russian attack, acknowledging that the NATO ally bore the brunt of the war’s refugee crisis.

“Your freedom is ours,” Biden told Polish President Andrzej Duda, echoing one of that country’s unofficial mottos.

More than 3.7 million people have fled Ukraine since the start of the war and more than 2.2 million Ukrainians have entered Poland, although it is unclear how many remained there and how many left for other countries. Earlier this week, the United States announced it would take in up to 100,000 refugees, and Biden told Duda he understood that Poland “carried a great responsibility, but that should fall entirely on the NATO”.

Biden called NATO’s “collective defense” deal a “sacred commitment,” and said unity in the Western military alliance was of the utmost importance.

“I am convinced that Vladimir Putin was counting on the division of NATO,” Biden said. “But he wasn’t able to do it. We all stayed together.

European security faces its most serious test since World War II. Western leaders have spent the past week consulting on contingency plans should the conflict spread. The invasion shook NATO from any complacency it might have felt and cast a dark shadow over Europe.

No clear path to end the conflict has emerged. Although Russian officials have suggested focusing their invasion on Donbass, a region in eastern Ukraine, Biden told reporters, when asked if the Kremlin had changed its strategy, “I’m not not sure they did.”


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