Hours after President Joe Biden said Russian President Vladimir Putin “cannot remain in power,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken made clear the United States does not have a plan for regime change in Russia.
“I think the president, the White House, made the point last night that, quite simply, President Putin cannot be empowered to wage war or engage in aggression against Ukraine or anyone else,” Blinken said Sunday during a press conference in Jerusalem.
“As you know, and as you have heard us say repeatedly, we do not have a strategy of regime change in Russia or anywhere else, for that matter,” he said.
Julianne Smith, US ambassador to NATO, also reaffirmed Sunday that the US is not pursuing regime change in Russia.
In a sweeping and forceful speech concluding a four-day trip to Europe, Biden on Saturday cast the war in Ukraine as part of an ongoing battle for freedom and ended with a blunt call for Putin to be stopped.
“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.
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, “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.”
“Only Russians, who vote for their president, can decide that,” Peskov said.
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►In remarks from Warsaw, Biden slammed Putin as a “butcher” for the unprovoked invasion of Ukraine and said the West “has never been stronger.” Poland has been on the front lines of the refugee crisis, having accepted 2 million Ukrainians fleeing the war.
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NATO ambassador: Biden comments a ‘human reaction’
The United States’ top NATO representative clarified President Joe Biden’s comments where he said Russian President Vladimir Putin “cannot remain in power,” saying the full administration believes “we cannot empower Putin right now to wage war in Ukraine or pursue these acts of aggression. ”
Julianne Smith, United States ambassador to NATO, said Sunday on CNN’s State of the Union that the United States is not pursuing a policy of regime change.
Smith said Biden met with Ukrainian refugees ahead of his speech on Saturday and his ad-libbed line was “a principal human reaction to the stories that he had heard that day.”
“As you’ve heard from Secretary Blinken and others, the US does not have a policy of regime change in Russia, full stop,” she said.
– Rebecca Morin
Ukraine’s ambassador asks for weapons
Ukrainian Ambassador Oksana Markarova called Sunday on Western allies to give Ukraine more military support, not in the form of troops but warplanes and anti-aircraft equipment so the nation can win the war against Russia.
“We are not asking for American soldiers, but we need all the support … all the weapons including the anti air, including the airplanes, everything, to stop this brutal destruction,” she told NBC News’ “Meet the Press.”
“We won’t surrender,” she said.
– Katie Wadington
Macron responds to Biden remark
French President Emmanuel Macron on Sunday distanced himself from President Joe Biden’s comments calling Russian President Vladimir Putin a “butcher” and someone who “cannot remain in power,” adding that he is trying to avoid an escalation from Russia.
In an interview with French TV station France 3, Macron said he would not use that kind of language and noted his task is to achieve “a cease-fire and then the total withdrawal of (Russian) troops by diplomatic means.” Macron and Putin have continued to be in talks after Russia invaded Ukraine last month.
“If we want to do that, we can’t escalate either in words or actions,” Macron said, according to a translation from France 24.
– Rebecca Morin
Zelenskyy: West’s jets, missiles are ‘collecting dust,’ and they should share
KYIV, Ukraine – Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has again urged the West to provide Ukraine with warplanes and air defense missiles.
Speaking in a video address early Sunday, Zelenskyy said that “our partners have all that, and it’s just collecting dust. And in fact it’s necessary not just for Ukraine’s freedom, but for the freedom of Europe.”
Zelenskyy warned that the Baltic states, Poland and Slovakia could eventually face a Russian attack “just because they will have kept in their hangars just 1% of all NATO warplanes and 1% of all NATO tanks. Just 1%! We aren’t asking for more and we have been waiting for that for 31 days!”
He said that “our partners must step up their aid to Ukraine.”
The president said, “Ukraine can’t shoot down Russian missiles with shotguns and machine guns that have accounted for the bulk of supplies. And we can’t unblock Mariupol without the necessary number of tanks, other armor and warplanes. All defenders of Ukraine know about it.”
The US and “all European politicians” also know that, he said.
– Associated Press
Last rail link to Russia from Europe will end
Finland will discontinue train service into Russia on Monday, serving rail links into EU countries.
Since Moscow invaded Ukraine, Finnish train operator VR has operated a route between Helsinki, Finland, and St. Petersburg, Russia, to “provide a safe passage to the Finnish citizens.”
“During these weeks, the people, who have wanted to depart from Russia, have had adequate time to leave. Now, due to the sanctions, we will discontinue the service for now”, says Topi Simola, SVP for Passenger Services at VR Group said late last week.
– Katie Wadington
Zelenskyy: Moscow sowing deep hatred for Russia among the Ukrainian people
LVIV, Ukraine — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy angrily warned Moscow that it is sowing a deep hatred for Russia among his people.
“You are doing everything so that our people themselves leave the Russian language, because the Russian language will now be associated only with you, with your explosions and murders, your crimes,” Zelenskyy said in an impassioned video address late Saturday.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has ground into a war of attrition in many places, with the toll on civilians rising as Moscow seeks to pound cities into submission from entrenched positions.
A nuclear research facility in the besieged city of Kharkiv, near the Russian border, again came under fire Saturday, and Ukraine’s nuclear watchdog said that because of ongoing hostilities it was impossible to assess the extent of the damage.
– Associated Press
Kremlin responds to Biden’s condemnation of Putin
A spokesperson for the Kremlin on Saturday said President Joe Biden’s statement that Vladimir Putin “cannot remain in power” was “extremely negative” for US relations with Russia.
“Only Russians, who vote for their president, can decide that,” Dmitry Peskov told The Associated Press. “And of course it is unbecoming for the president of the US to make such statements.”
The White House walked back Biden’s initial statements in Poland, claiming the president was not endorsing regime change, but meant that “Putin cannot be allowed to exercise power over his neighbors or the region.”
Peskov said that with Biden’s statements, he was “narrowing the window of opportunity for our bilateral relations under the current administration.”
Rockets strike western Ukrainian city of Lviv
LVIV, Ukraine — Several rockets struck the western Ukrainian city of Lviv on Saturday in what officials say were two separate attacks.
The powerful explosions frightened a city that had been a haven for hundreds of thousands of people fleeing the Russian assault on other parts of Ukraine.
The regional governor, Maksym Kozytskyy, said on Facebook that preliminary indications were five people were injured in the first attack but did not specify what the two rockets hit. Hours later, he reported three more explosions outside the city, again with no details.
Lviv Mayor Andriy Sadovyi called the second round of explosions a rocket attack, saying it did significant damage to an unspecified “infrastructure object.”
Lviv had been largely spared since Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine, although missiles struck an aircraft repair facility near the international airport a week ago.
The back-to-back attacks on Saturday brought a chill to residents and displaced Ukrainians who had seen Lviv as a relatively safe place to rebuild their lives. Home to about 700,000 people before the invasion, the city has absorbed many more.
– Associated Press
Governor of Lviv region says man detained on suspicion of espionage
LVIV, Ukraine — The governor of the Lviv region says a man was detained on suspicion of espionage at the site of one of the two rocket attacks that rattled the city on Saturday.
Maksym Kozytskyy said police found the man had recorded a rocket flying toward the target and striking it. Police also found on his telephone photos of checkpoints in the region, which Kozytskyy said had been sent to two Russian telephone numbers.
Rockets hit an oil storage facility and an unspecified industrial facility, wounding at least five people. A thick plume of smoke and towering flames could be seen on Lviv’s outskirts hours after the attacks.
– Associated Press