Biden says he was voicing ‘outrage’ about Putin, not calling for regime change

Biden’s off-the-cuff remark during a major speech in Poland on Saturday triggered global headlines and sent White House officials scrambling to clarify that the US was not pursuing regime change in Russia.

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WASHINGTON, US President Biden said Monday that his weekend statement that Russian President Vladimir Putin “cannot remain in power” did not reflect new US policy, but rather an expression of his “personal feelings” and “moral outrage” about Russia’s military offensive in Ukraine.

Biden’s off-the-cuff remark during a major speech in Poland on Saturday triggered global headlines and sent White House officials scrambling to clarify that the US was not pursuing regime change in Russia.

“I was expressing the moral outrage that I feel, and I make no apologies for it,” Biden told reporters at the White House, rejecting criticism from around the globe in the last two days about the potential diplomatic consequences of his words.

The president said no one should have interpreted his comments as calling for Putin’s ouster.

“It’s ridiculous,” he said of the questions about his Warsaw speech, when he said, “For God’s sake, this man cannot remain in power.”

On Monday, Biden said, “Nobody believes I was talking about taking down Putin. Nobody believes that.”

Some critics said Biden’s declaration could make it more difficult to negotiate an end to the 5-week-old war, which has killed thousands in Ukraine and driven millions from their homes.

Biden insisted on Monday that was not the case, although Putin has told Russians for years that he believes the United States and the CIA are conspiring to remove him from power.

Dmitri Peskov, the Russian spokesman, said that Biden’s statement “makes us worry” and that Moscow would “continue to closely monitor” the president’s remarks.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan urged Russian and Ukrainian delegations to “put an end to this tragedy” as he hosted talks in Istanbul on Tuesday.

The face-to-face talks at the Dolmabahce palace in Istanbul are aimed at trying to end the war that has killed an estimated 20,000 people and forced more than 10 million from their homes.

It is the first time that the two countries’ delegations, who arrived in Turkey on Monday, met after several rounds of talks by videoconference.

“The two parties have legitimate concerns, it’s possible to reach a solution acceptable to the international community,” Erdogan said.

“It’s up to the two parties to put an end to this tragedy,” he insisted, adding that the “extension of the conflict is in no one’s interest.”

Turkey on March 10 hosted the first meeting between Ukrainian and Russian foreign ministers since the invasion of Ukraine last month in the southern Turkish city of Antalya.

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