In a sweeping and forceful speech concluding a four-day trip to Europe, President Joe Biden cast the war in Ukraine on Saturday as part of an ongoing battle for freedom and ended with a blunt call for Russian President Vladimir Putin to be stopped, Michael Collins, Ana Faguy, Ella Lee, Maureen Groppe, and Jeanine Santucci reported for USA TODAY.
Photo Insert: President Joe Biden in a meeting with Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba and Minister of Defense Oleksii Reznikov
"For God's sake, this man cannot remain in power,” Biden said during a visit to Warsaw, Poland, in his strongest comments to date about his desire to see Putin gone. He also tagged Putin as a “butcher.” Shortly after the speech, a White House official speaking on the condition of anonymity said Biden was not calling for Putin to be removed from office.
“The president’s point was that Putin cannot be allowed to exercise power over his neighbors or the region," the official said.
"He was not discussing Putin’s power in Russia, or regime change." Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov responded that “it’s not up to the president of the US and not up to the Americans to decide who will remain in power in Russia.” Peskov said, “only Russians, who vote for their president, can decide that.”
Biden’s remarks came just a few hours after he bluntly described the Russian leader as “a butcher” while meeting with Ukrainian refugees who had fled to Poland to escape the war in their homeland. Biden appealed to ordinary Russians, first telling them – “if you’re able to listen” – that “you ... are not our enemy.”
He said what Russians experienced at the hands of invaders in World War II is exactly what is happening to Ukrainians by the Russian military. “These are not the actions of a great nation,” Biden said of the bombings of hospitals, schools, and maternity wards.
“This war is not worthy of you, the Russian people.”