U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken emphasized that the Biden administration is not looking for “regime change in Russia” a day after President Joe Biden said Russian leader Vladimir Putin “cannot remain in power.”
Biden’s remarks, which came in Poland on Saturday, set off a flurry of damage control efforts from others within the administration. Moments after the president made the comment, a White House official clarified, “The president’s point was that Putin cannot be allowed to exercise power over his neighbors or the region. He was not discussing Putin’s power in Russia, or regime change.”
Blinken, during a press conference in Jerusalem, noted, “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," adding, "As you know, and as you’ve heard us say repeatedly, we do not have a strategy of regime change in Russia or anywhere else, for that matter. In this case, as in any case, it’s up to the people of the country in question. It’s up to the Russian people."
Biden, who spent the last few days visiting NATO allies in Eastern Europe, called on the Russian people to stand up to Putin, whom he called a "butcher" while meeting with Ukrainian refugees in Poland on Saturday.
Russia's war in Ukraine has not gone according to plan. They sought to topple the capital, Kyiv, quickly, and yet, after a month, they remain on the outskirts of the city, having recently lost ground to Ukrainian resistance forces. They appear to be turning their attention away from Kyiv to focus on capturing enough land between Crimea, which Russia annexed in 2014, and the eastern part of Ukraine, which has a pro-Russian separatist faction, so that they could more easily move supplies and troops from one area to the other.
The General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine acknowledged on Friday that Russia “succeeded in creating a land corridor between the" two cities.
“At least for the moment, they don't appear to want to pursue Kyiv as aggressively or frankly at all. They are more focused on the Donbas,” a senior U.S. defense official told reporters the same day, describing the military’s position outside of Kyiv as a “defensive crouch.”
The U.S. government has declared that war crimes are occurring in Ukraine, alleging that it has seen evidence of "indiscriminate attacks and attacks deliberately targeting civilians."