U.S. President Joe Biden on Saturday called for Russian leader Vladimir Putin’s removal, saying, “For God’s sake, this man cannot remain in power.”
Biden also used a speech in Poland’s capital to make a vociferous defense of liberal democracy and the NATO military alliance, while also saying Europe must steel itself for a long fight against Russian aggression.
In what was billed by the White House as a major address, Biden spoke in front of the Royal Castle, one of Warsaw’s notable landmarks that was badly damaged during War II.
He borrowed the words of Polish-born Pope John Paul II and cited anti-communist Polish dissident and former president, Lech Walesa, as he warned that Putin’s invasion of Ukraine threatens to bring “decades of war.”
“In this battle we need to be clear-eyed. This battle will not be won in days, or months, either,” Biden said.
The crowd of about 1,000 included some of the Ukrainian refugees who have fled for Poland and elsewhere in the midst of the brutal invasion.
“We must commit now, to be this fight for the long haul,” Biden said.
In a later clarification of his statement, the White House denied that Biden was not calling for regime change in Russia.
“The President’s point was that Putin cannot be allowed to exercise power over his neighbors or the region.
“He was not discussing Putin’s power in Russia, or regime change,” the official said following Biden’s speech in Warsaw.
The Kremlin dismissed the remark by Biden, saying it was up to Russians to choose their own president.
Asked about Biden’s comment, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Reuters: “That’s not for Biden to decide. The president of Russia is elected by Russians.”
Peskov did not immediately respond to a follow-up request for reaction to the White House clarification.
Biden has stepped up personal attacks on Putin since the Russian president ordered the invasion of Ukraine last month, and the Kremlin has replied by questioning the U.S. leader’s state of mind.
Last week it accused Biden of making “personal insults” towards Putin after he labelled him a “war criminal” and a “murderous dictator”, and said his remarks appeared to have been fuelled by irritation, fatigue and forgetfulness.
Today, Biden called Putin a butcher.
Dmitry Rogozin, the outspoken head of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, suggested mockingly on social media that the clarification of Biden’s latest remarks had come from the White House medical unit.