Biden Won't Apologize for Calling for Vladimir Putin's Removal

United States President Joe Biden said he would not apologize for saying Russian President Vladimir Putin "cannot remain in power."

At a Monday press briefing, Biden said although he is "not walking anything back" in terms of what he said, the statement reflects a personal belief, not a policy change.

That comment came as a result of the statement the president made regarding Putin while speaking in Warsaw about the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Though the White House quickly clarified that Biden was not calling for a regime change, Biden elaborated on his statement, which drew backlash from Moscow, during his comments on Monday.

"The fact of the matter is I was expressing the outrage I felt toward the way Putin is dealing and the actions of this man, just brutality," he said, adding, "but I want to make it clear, I wasn't then nor am I now articulating a policy change."

Biden made his comment about Putin during a speech in the Polish capital on Saturday, speaking in front of both Polish citizens and Ukrainian refugees.

"We will have a different future—a brighter future rooted in democracy and principle; hope and light, decency and dignity; of freedom of possibilities," Biden said. "For God's sake, this man cannot remain in power."

Shortly afterward, a White House spokesperson issued a statement appearing to backpedal on part of his remarks.

"The president's point was that Putin cannot be allowed to exercise power over his neighbors or the region," the White House official said. "He was not discussing Putin's power in Russia, or regime change."

Some officials, both inside and outside of Russia, have criticized Biden's statement, with Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov telling Reuters whether Putin remains in power is "not for Biden to decide. The president of Russia is elected by Russians." Russian lawmaker Vyacheslav Volodin called Biden "weak, sick and unhappy."

French President Emmanuel Macron also expressed concern over Biden's words, warning against a verbal "escalation" of tensions between Russia and Western nations.

However, others criticized the White House's statement, saying leaders should not walk back on calling for Putin's removal amid the reports of Russian forces firing on civilians in Ukraine. Just last week, Secretary of State Antony Blinken issued a statement saying the U.S. government believes Russian forces have committed war crimes in Ukraine.

Garry Kasparov, a Russian chess grandmaster and the chairman of the Human Rights Foundation, expressed his disappointment in the White House's statement in a social media post.

"No free world leader should hesitate to state plainly that the world would be a far better place if Putin were no longer in power in Russia," Kasparov wrote. "A good way to make that come about is to say exactly that. Russia will be pariah until Putin is gone."

Follow Newsweek's live blog for updates on the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

Update 03/28/22 4:40 p.m. ET: This story was updated to add more information and background.

Joe Biden Doubles Down on Putin Statement
President Joe Biden said he will not apologize for saying Russian President Vladimir Putin cannot remain in power. Above, Biden introduces his budget request for fiscal year 2023 in the State Dining Room of the White House on March 28 in Washington, D.C. Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images