By John Ikani
US President Joe Biden on Saturday called Russian leader Vladimir Putin a “butcher” who “cannot remain in power.”
Biden made the comments during a visit to Poland, where he met Ukrainian refugees displaced by the fighting in their country.
The US also branded Putin a “butcher” during his meeting with refugees who have fled the war in Ukraine to the Polish capital.
Biden’s comments on Saturday marked an escalation of US rhetoric towards Moscow over its invasion of Ukraine, but were not a call for “regime change” in Russia, a White House official said later.
Analysts warn that Biden’s comment could hurt efforts to get Putin to the negotiating table.
“The President’s point was that Putin cannot be allowed to exercise power over his neighbours or the region,” a White House official said minutes after the speech concluded.
“He was not discussing Putin’s power in Russia, or regime change,” the source added.
The Kremlin dismissed the remarks, saying the US had no authority in the matter.
“That’s not for Biden to decide. The president of Russia is elected by Russians,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told the Reuters news agency.
What else did Biden say?
Biden was in Poland on the last leg of a four-day trip to Europe and in addition to meeting refugees and Ukrainian officials, he delivered a fiery speech before Warsaw’s iconic Royal Castle, where he pointedly warned Putin against invading even “an inch” of a NATO nation’s territory
In his speech, the US President also compared Ukraine’s resistance against a Russian invasion with the anti-Soviet “battle for freedom” and said the world must prepare for a “long fight ahead”.
“We stand with you,” he told Ukrainians in the sweeping speech, which he began with the words of late Polish pope John Paul II: “Be not afraid.”
He said Russia had suffered a “strategic failure” in Ukraine and told ordinary Russians they were “not our enemy,” urging them to blame Putin for the heavy sanctions imposed by the West.
He also warned Russia not to move on an “inch” of NATO territory, reiterating the “sacred obligation” of collective defence for alliance members.
“We will have a different future, a brighter future rooted in democracy and principle, hope and light,” he added.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine has killed and wounded thousands of people, and forced some 3.8 million to seek refuge abroad. Russian air raids have also laid waste to some Ukraine cities, prompting some to accuse Moscow of committing “war crimes” in Ukraine.