Ukraine war: Kremlin says Biden’s comments that Putin ‘cannot remain in power’ are a ’cause for concern’

Monday, March 28, 2022 | views Last Updated 2022-03-28T09:58:55Z

The US president had said on Saturday that Vladimir Putin “cannot remain in power”, words that sparked criticism among those who understood them as a call for regime change.

Key developments:

• The next round of face-to-face talks between Ukraine and Russia will take place in Turkey starting today
• The Ukrainian region of Luhansk, much of which is controlled by Russian-backed separatists, said it may hold a referendum on joining Russia
• Ukraine said 1,100 people were evacuated from frontline areas on Sunday, including from the city of Mariupol, after both sides agreed to set up two “humanitarian corridors”
• The UN said 1,119 civilians have been killed in Ukraine and 1,790 injured since the Russian invasion began in late February
• Ukraine’s deputy prime minister said Russian forces were “militarising” the exclusion zone around the occupied Chernobyl nuclear power station

He appealed to Russian people directly with comparisons between the invasion of Ukraine and the horrors of WWII.

“For God’s sake, this man cannot remain in power,” he added at the end of his speech

US officials row back after backlash

Senior US officials spent most of Sunday evening and Monday trying to play down that part of Mr Biden’s speech.

Among them was Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who said Mr Biden had simply meant that Mr Putin should not be “empowered to wage war” against Ukraine or anywhere else.

He insisted “we do not have a strategy of regime change” as the Kremlin said it is “not up to the Americans to decide who will remain in power in Russia”.

The UK government sought the distance itself from Mr Biden’s comments, with Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi saying it is “up to the Russian people” to decide whether to overthrow Mr Putin.

Referring to the remarks, French President Emanuel Macron said he “wouldn’t use those terms” and suggested they could make it harder to resolve the conflict.

“We want to stop the war that Russia launched in Ukraine, without waging war and without escalation,” he said.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said that neither NATO nor Mr Biden aim to bring about regime change in Russia.

Asked whether Mr Biden made a dangerous mistake with his comments, he replied: “No.”

“He said what he said,” he said.

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