Biden says his Putin comment expressed personal outrage, not US policy
By Dan Bilefsky and Michael D. Shear
President Joe Biden on Monday stood by his comment that Vladimir Putin should be removed as president of Russia but said it was a personal expression of his outrage and not a change in U.S. policy aimed at seeking to topple Putin from office.
“I was expressing the moral outrage I felt toward this man,” Biden told reporters, rejecting criticism that he misspoke. He said no one should have thought his comments were meant to be calling for Putin’s ouster.
“The last thing I want to do is engage in a land war or a nuclear war with Russia,” Biden said.
The president’s remarks came two days after he declared during a speech in Warsaw, Poland: “For God’s sake, this man cannot remain in power,” an ad-libbed comment at the end of his three-day diplomatic blitz in Europe.
It took just minutes for the White House to back away from Biden’s comments in Warsaw. Some critics said they were undisciplined and threatened to unnecessarily provoke Putin. Secretary of State Antony Blinken told journalists in Jerusalem that “we do not have a strategy of regime change in Russia or anywhere else, for that matter.”
The president’s assertion that regime change was not on the agenda came as fighting raged across Ukraine on Monday in the war’s fifth week, with Ukrainian forces appearing to make gains in the northeast, and Russia continuing its unrelenting assault against the southern port city of Mariupol, which was desperately trying to fend off a takeover.
In recent days, the Russian military has signaled that it might be taming its territorial ambitions by focusing on cementing control of eastern Ukraine. But the fighting Monday across multiple battlefronts suggested a more dynamic and volatile situation. The mayor of Irpin, one of the most fiercely contested towns in the battle for the suburbs surrounding Kyiv, said Ukraine’s army had pushed Russian forces from the town in what would be a significant victory for Ukraine if its soldiers gain and retain control.
Here are some other major developments:
— A video analyzed by The New York Times shows soldiers who are likely Ukrainian beating and shooting prisoners from the Russian military. The footage shows five of the prisoners tied up and lying on the ground. Three other captives are shot in their legs. The incident raised questions about whether the Geneva Conventions, which set out the rules for the humane treatment of prisoners of war, had been violated.
— Diplomats from Ukraine and Russia were scheduled to arrive in Turkey on Monday for talks, with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy saying his country was “ready” to discuss adopting neutral status. But the Kremlin offered little hope for an agreement that would end the war.
— Schools in Kyiv reopened online Monday, the city’s authorities said. Teachers were encouraged to give light workloads to students.
— Novaya Gazeta, the Russian newspaper that helped define fearless journalism in the post-Soviet era and whose editor shared the Nobel Peace Prize last year, suspended publication Monday, leaving Russia without any major media outlets critical of the Kremlin.