Biden says he wasn't calling for regime change in Russia
Asked by a pool reporter whether he wants "Putin removed" and whether he was "calling for regime change," Biden replied: "No."
The president was asked the question on Sunday as he was leaving a church service in Washington just before getting into a car.
At the end of a fiery speech in Warsaw on Saturday night, Biden said of Putin: "For God's sake, this man cannot remain in power."
The remark was interpreted as a dramatic shift in US foreign policy, with Biden seeming to suggest regime change was necessary in Russia.
The White House later attempted to clarify the remarks were not a direct call for Putin's ouster, saying that Biden meant "Putin cannot be allowed to exercise power over his neighbors or the region."
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken also repeated the message while in Israel on Sunday: "We do not have a strategy of regime change in Russia, or anywhere else for that matter."
In the same speech, Biden called Putin a "butcher," a "war criminal," and a "murderous dictator."
Russia angrily hits back
Biden's comments generated outrage in Moscow, with Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov quickly hitting back: "That's not for Biden to decide. The president of Russia is elected by Russians."
Prominent Russian Senator Konstantin Kosachev, chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee in parliament's upper house, claimed Biden made statements with "frightening regularity" that are worse than crimes.
There had been times in the past when the word of a US president carried weight, but that is over, he said.
Russian parliamentary leader Vyacheslav Volodin accused the US president of "undiplomatic statements" and "hysteria."
"Biden is weak, sick and unhappy," Volodin commented on Telegram. "US citizens should be ashamed of their president. Possibly he is sick. It would be right for Biden to get a medical check-up."
Putin, on the other hand, deserved respect because of his "restraint," Volodin said.
Cover photo: IMAGO / ZUMA Wire