Warsaw, Mar 26 (EFE).- United States President Joe Biden said here Saturday that Vladimir Putin “cannot remain in power,” though the White House later insisted that the statement was not meant as a call for regime change in Russia.
“For God’s sake, this man cannot remain in power,” Biden said at the conclusion of a speech to some 1,000 people outside the Royal Castle in Warsaw that focused on how the West is responding to Russia’s military campaign in Ukraine.
Following the address, a White House official speaking on condition of anonymity told reporters that Biden’s “point was that Putin cannot be allowed to exercise power over his neighbors or the region.”
The US leader was “not discussing Putin’s power in Russia, or regime change,” the official said.
Asked about Biden’s remark, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that the choice of who governs Russia belongs to “the people of the Russian Federation.”
“This is not to be decided by Mr. Biden,” Peskov said.
The speech was filled with criticism of Putin, described by Biden as a “dictator, bent on rebuilding an empire,” and with talk of a struggle between democracy and authoritarianism.
“In this battle we need to be clear-eyed. This battle will not be won in days, or months, either,” the US president said, accusing Putin of “using brute force and disinformation to satisfy a craving for absolute power and control.”
He also affirmed that Washington will honor its treaty obligation to come to the defense of any NATO member attacked by Russia.
“Don’t even think about moving on one single inch of NATO territory,” Biden said, directing his remarks to Putin, though he reiterated that the US is not obliged to intervene in Ukraine, which is not a NATO member.
“American forces are not in Europe to engage in conflict with Russian forces, American forces are here to defend NATO,” he said.
During a meeting hours earlier with Polish President Andrzej Duda, Biden said that NATO-member Poland can rely on Washington’s “sacred commitment” to the NATO treaty.
The president met with Duda after talks at a Warsaw hotel with Ukrainian foreign and defense ministers Dmytro Kuleba and Oleksii Reznikov
That meeting, Biden’s first in-person encounter with Ukrainian officials since the Feb. 24 start of Russia’s invasion, was devoted to discussion of efforts to “help Ukraine defend its territory,” according to the White House.
Reznikov said afterward in a tweet that Biden had told him: “Ukraine has inspired the whole world.”
Biden also met with Ukrainian refugees at a Warsaw soccer stadium that has been converted into a refugee center to provide assistance to some of the more than 2.17 million people who have fled to Poland.
The US president told the refugees he views Putin as a “butcher.”
Regarding the “butcher” comment, Peskov said that “such personal insults narrow the window of opportunity for our bilateral relations under the current (US) administration.”
The Kremlin spokesman also said that the attack on Putin was “strange” in light of then-Sen. Biden’s support in 1999 “for the bombing of Yugoslavia.” EFE