President Joe Biden said Saturday that Vladimir Putin "cannot remain in power," dramatically escalating the rhetoric against the Russian leader after his brutal invasion of Ukraine.
Even as President Biden's words rocketed around the world, the White House attempted to clarify soon after Biden finished speaking in Poland that he was not calling for a new government in Russia.
A White House official asserted that President Biden was "not discussing Putin's power in Russia or regime change." The official, who was not authorized to comment by name and spoke on the condition of anonymity, said President Biden's point was that "Putin cannot be allowed to exercise power over his neighbors or the region."
The White House declined to comment on whether President Biden's statement about Putin was part of his prepared remarks.
"For God's sake, this man cannot remain in power," President Biden said at the very end of a speech in Poland's capital that served as the capstone on a four-day trip to Europe.
President Biden has frequently talked about ensuring that the Kremlin's now invasion, now in its second month, becomes a "strategic failure" for Putin and has described the Russian leader as a "war criminal." But until his remarks in Warsaw, the American leader had not veered toward suggesting Putin should not run Russia. Earlier on Saturday, shortly after meeting with Ukrainian refugees, President Biden called Putin a "butcher."
President Biden also used his speech to also make a vociferous defense of liberal democracy and the NATO military alliance, while saying Europe must steel itself for a long fight against Russian aggression.
Additional reporting by The Associated Press.