Biden Says War In Ukraine Is A Test For Democracies And That Putin 'Cannot Remain In Power'
By RFE/RL March 26, 2022
In a major speech on the war in Ukraine, U.S. President Joe Biden has said that the conflict is a clear test for democracies around the world, and he portrayed the Ukrainian resistance against Russian forces as part of a "great battle for freedom."
Speaking on March 26 at Warsaw's Royal Castle, Biden said there was no justification for Russia's brutal war of aggression in Ukraine and openly called for the removal of Russian President Vladimir Putin from office.
"For God's sake this man cannot remain in power," Biden said, concluding his speech, which came at the end of a three-day trip to Europe.
The White House later clarified that Biden was not seeking "regime change" in Russia.
"The president's point was that Putin cannot be allowed to exercise power over his neighbors or the region," a White House official said. "He was not discussing Putin's power in Russia, or regime change."
Earlier on March 26 while visiting Ukrainian refugees in Warsaw, Biden called Putin a "butcher" and in his speech referred to him as a tyrant.
Addressing a crowd of about 1,000 people gathered in front of the castle, Biden reiterated that the United States stands with Ukraine, saying that Russia was trying to crush democracy at home and endanger it in its neighbors.
Democracies around the world must prepare for a "long fight ahead" and all freedom-loving countries must commit to safeguarding democracy over the long haul, Biden said.
"It will not be easy. There will be costs," he added.
The U.S. president repeatedly referred to Putin by name, blasting him for meeting Western attempts at "real diplomacy" prior to the conflict with "disinterest" and "lies."
He also reiterated that Russia's invasion has only served to strengthen NATO and the West, which he said is "more united" than ever.
As a result of the war, he said, there are more NATO soldiers in Eastern Europe, not less, as Russia had demanded, Biden said.
The U.S. alone now has more than 100,000 troops in Europe, he said, warning Russia against "moving on one single inch of NATO territory," noting the "sacred obligation" among NATO's members to defend alliance territory with the combined might of all its members.
Biden also spoke directly to the Russian people, saying they are not the enemy and Putin has cut them off from the rest of the world. He said Russia was experiencing a "brain drain" that has seen more than 200,000 leave the country since the start of the war on February 24.
The audience assembled before the castle -- adorned with a giant U.S. flag on one side and a Polish flag on the other -- included some of the Ukrainian refugees who themselves fled their home country in the midst of the invasion.
Biden encouraged them by echoing the words of Polish-born Pope John Paul II, a staunch anti-communist, who told Poles on a trip to his native country in 1979 never to give up hope or become discouraged.
"Be not afraid," Biden said. "A dictator bent on rebuilding an empire will never erase the people's love of liberty."
Concluding his sweeping address, Biden said: "We will have a different future, a brighter future rooted in democracy and principle, hope, and light."
Biden met earlier in Warsaw with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba and Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov -- his first face-to-face meeting with top Kyiv officials since the start of Russia's unprovoked invasion. Biden also met with Polish President Andrzej Duda.
Kuleba told reporters that Ukraine had received additional security pledges from Washington on developing defense cooperation.
"President Biden said what is happening in Ukraine will change the history of the 21st century, and we will work together to ensure that this change is in our favor, in Ukraine's favor, in the favor of the democratic world," Kuleba told Ukrainian national television after the meeting,
On the front line, a senior Ukrainian official announced an agreement to open 10 evacuation corridors from the besieged port of Mariupol, where fierce fighting continued, while Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko reversed a decision to introduce a long curfew in the capital as fighting continued around the city and in other flash points.
A regional official said Russian forces have taken control of a town where workers at the defunct Chernobyl nuclear plant live and broke up a civilian protest by firing in the air.
The governor of the Kyiv region, Oleksandr Pavlyuk, said Russian forces have taken control of the town of Slavutych, where workers at the defunct Chernobyl nuclear plant live.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy made a surprise video appearance on March 26 at Qatar's Doha Forum, calling on the energy-rich nations to boost their output to prevent Moscow from using energy exports as a lever in relations with countries dependent on oil and gas imports.
"I ask you to increase the output of energy to ensure that everyone in Russia understands that no one can use energy as a weapon to blackmail the world," Zelenskiy said.
With reporting by AP, AFP, and Reuters
Copyright (c) 2022. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.
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