EU distances itself from Joe Biden after Vladimir Putin regime change blunder

Joe Biden calls Putin a 'butcher' after visiting Ukrainian refugees

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President Biden clarified on Sunday that the United States does not have a policy of regime change in Russia, after his declaration that Russian President Vladimir Putin “cannot remain in power”.

Mr Biden’s comments in Poland on Saturday also included calling Putin a “butcher” and appeared to be a sharp escalation of the US approach to Moscow over its invasion of Ukraine.

Top American diplomats on Sunday had played down his declaration, and Biden, asked by a reporter as he departed a church service in Washington if he was calling for regime change in Russia, gave a one-word reply: “No.”

Julianne Smith, the US ambassador to NATO, earlier sought to contextualise Biden’s remarks, saying they followed a day of speaking with Ukrainian refugees in Warsaw.

Russia’s month-old invasion has driven a quarter of Ukraine’s population of 44 million from their homes.

“In the moment, I think that was a principled human reaction to the stories that he had heard that day,” Smith told CNN’s “State of the Union” program before adding: “The US does not have a policy of regime change in Russia. Full stop.”

The comments prompted EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell to keep his distance from the US President.

In an interview with Sky News Arabia, Mr Borrell said: “I have not heard directly what he said but have seen the position of the White House. [In the EU] we are not after a regime change, that is something for the Russian citizens to decide [if they want a regime change] if they of course could decide that.”

He added: “What we are after in the case of Russia is to prevent the aggression [from continuing] and that is our purpose in this case – to stop Putin’s war against Ukraine.”

French President Emmanuel Macron also kept his distance from the US leader’s remarks.

He told France 3 TV channel: “I wouldn’t use this type of wording because I continue to hold discussions with President Putin.”

The French president said he was seeking to hold more talks with Putin regarding the situation in Ukraine as well as an initiative to help people leave the besieged city of Mariupol in the coming days.

“We want to stop the war that Russia has launched in Ukraine without escalation – that’s the objective,” he added, noting the objective is to obtain a ceasefire and the withdrawal of troops through diplomatic means.

“If this is what we want to do, we should not escalate things – neither with words or actions.”

US secretary of state Antony Blinken 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”.

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Richard Haass, a veteran US diplomat who is president of the Council on Foreign Relations think tank, said Mr Biden’s remarks made “a dangerous situation more dangerous” when the strategy should be focused on de-escalation.

Moscow has given an indication it could scale back its offensive to focus on what it claimed was the “main goal, liberation of Donbas”, the region bordering Russia in the east of Ukraine.

But Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky warned he would not give up territory in peace talks as he noted his troops have delivered “powerful blows” to invading forces.

Mr Zelensky renewed his plea for western allies to provide tanks and fighter jets to repel the Russians, as he hailed the courage of his troops defending the besieged city of Mariupol.

“If only those who have been thinking for 31 days on how to hand over dozens of jets and tanks had one percent of their courage,” Mr Zelensky said.

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