The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Biden says Putin ‘cannot remain in power’; White House walks back remark

President Biden met with Polish President Andrzej Duda and Ukrainian refugees before his speech outside the Royal Castle in Warsaw on March 26. (Video: Joy Yi, Alexa Juliana Ard/The Washington Post)
Placeholder while article actions load

This live coverage has ended. For Sunday’s live updates, click here.

WARSAW — President Biden said Russian President Vladimir Putin “cannot remain in power” in a forceful speech Saturday wrapping up a trip to Europe meant to bolster NATO’s response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The president’s remark initially seemed to suggest support for regime change — something the Biden administration has taken pains to avoid — though the White House later said Biden only meant Putin should not be allowed to exercise power over his neighbors or the region.

“That’s not for Biden to decide,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, according to state media. “The president of Russia is elected by Russians.”

Biden’s words capped a fiery speech in which he called Putin a “dictator,” warning him not to encroach on NATO territory and urging Ukrainians to steel themselves for a long battle. He framed the Kremlin’s invasion as the “test of all time” for democracy.

His trip came as fierce fighting continued in Ukraine. Officials in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv reported several powerful explosions on Saturday, and a large plume of smoke could be seen billowing in the air.

How many people have been killed in Ukraine? Here’s what we know.

Here’s what to know

  • Speaking by video to the Doha Forum in Qatar on Saturday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky described the destruction in the port city of Mariupol, comparing it to “what we all saw in Aleppo” — a reference to the northern Syrian city battered by Syrian and Russian forces during the civil war in Syria.
  • The Pentagon said Friday that Russia has halted ground operations aimed at Kyiv and is instead focusing attacks on the eastern Donbas region. The move is seen as a sign that Moscow might be paring back its ambitions for the invasion. A U.S. military think tank, however, expressed skepticism that Russia’s war aims have changed.
  • For weeks, the Ukrainian city of Chernihiv north of the capital has been under near-constant Russian attack, almost entirely cut off from power, water, food and gas amid constant artillery fire. One resident has shared with The Washington Post the daily struggles that he and others face.
  • American teacher Tyler Jacob has been released from Russian custody and reunited with his wife and daughter. He was detained 10 days ago at a checkpoint in Crimea as he was seeking evacuation to Turkey.
  • The Washington Post has lifted its paywall for readers in Russia and Ukraine. Telegram users can subscribe to our channel for updates.