“For God’s sake, this man cannot remain in power,” the president said at the end of his speech in Warsaw, Poland.
Following the remarks, a White House official said that comment was referring to Putin exercising power outside of Russia.
“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,” the official said in an email.
Much of Biden’s speech involved placing blame for the Russian invasion into Ukraine directly on Putin and delivering a plea to the Russian people that they not be welcoming or supportive of the war. The comment was a particularly notable moment, however, appearing to mark a shift in Biden’s thinking about Putin’s position in Russia.
It’s unclear if the White House meant that Biden muddled his words or went off-script with his comments. The White House did not immediately respond to The Hill’s request for comment to clarify the statement.
Biden at one point in his remarks declared, “It is Putin, it is Vladimir Putin who is to blame. Period.” And he called the war “an example of one of the oldest human impulses, using brute force and disinformation to satisfy a craving for absolute power and control.”
The president called Putin “a butcher,” when asked earlier on Saturday what he thought of him for having caused the humanitarian fallout.
He also on Friday reiterated his belief that Putin has committed war crimes, after Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Wednesday said the Biden administration has determined that Russian forces have committed war crimes in Ukraine.