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US ambassador says Biden’s remark on Putin was ‘principled human reaction’ after meeting refugees

U.S. Ambassador to NATO Julianna Smith on Sunday said President Biden’s comment that Russian President Vladimir Putin “cannot remain in power” was a “principled human reaction” after meeting with refugees fleeing Ukraine.

Asked by co-anchor Dana Bash on CNN “State of the Union” if Biden’s ad-libbed comment in Warsaw was a mistake, Smith said the president was reacting to stories he heard that day from Ukrainian refugees.

“Well, look, the president had spent the day visiting with Ukrainian refugees. He went to the National Stadium in Warsaw and literally met with hundreds of Ukrainians. He heard their heroic stories as they were fleeing Ukraine in the wake of Russia’s brutal war in Ukraine. In the moment, I think that was a principled human reaction to the stories that he had heard that day,” Smith said.

She also emphasized that the U.S. does not have a policy of regime change in Russia, echoing what the White House and top administration officials have said in the fallout from Biden’s speech.

“As you have heard from Secretary Blinken and others, the U.S. does not have a policy of regime change in Russia, full stop,” Smith told Bash, referring to Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

Smith added that “the full administration, the president included, believes that we cannot empower Putin right now to wage war in Ukraine or pursue these acts of aggression.”

Biden turned heads at the end of his speech in Warsaw on Saturday when he said “for God’s sake, this man cannot remain in power.” The comment was not scripted in the president’s speech.

The White House quickly worked to walk back the comment, with an official saying “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 White House official added.

Tags Antony Blinken Dana Bash Joe Biden Vladimir Putin

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