During a visit to Poland over the weekend, US President Joe Biden called Putin "a butcher" who "cannot remain in power". The statement was made during his speech in Warsaw on Saturday, 26 March.
"For God's sake, this man cannot remain in power," Biden had remarked.
That comment set alarm bells ringing across the US, Russia, and Europe. The White House had to quickly clarify that the president was not seeking "regime change" in Moscow.
Even the US Secretary of State Antony Blinken had to issue a clarification for the same.
"As you know, and as you’ve heard us say repeatedly, we do not have a strategy of regime change in Russia or anywhere else, for that matter. In this case, as in any case, it’s up to the people of the country in question. It’s up to the Russian people," Blinken said, as quoted by Reuters.
The Kremlin reacted angrily too. "This is a statement that is certainly alarming," spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.
"We will continue closely monitoring statements of the US president," he added, reported by AFP.
'Stay on Script'
Members of the Republican Party in the US also criticised Biden's choice of words.
Senator Rob Portman of Ohio, after clarifying that he too is of the belief that the world would benefit without a man like Putin, said that he thought Biden made a "mistake."
“Well, first, I think all of us believe the world would be a better place without Vladimir Putin. But second, that’s not the official US policy, and by saying that, that regime change is our strategy, effectively, it plays into the hands of the Russian propagandists and plays into the hands of Vladimir Putin," Portman told NBC News.
Representative Michael Waltz of Florida tweeted that he does not "disagree with Biden's comments that the murderous attack in Ukraine won't end until Putin's reign ends."
"But the change needs to come from internal to Russia. It needs to come from the Russian people," he argued.
Talking to Fox News, he also stated that this sort of remark "feeds into Putin's propaganda machine" because he has "long said that NATO and the United States and NATO want aims to take the Russian government out and to keep Russia weak. I guarantee you that he is pumping that propaganda into his people right now".
Additionally, Senator James Risch of Idaho told CNN, "as you pointed out already, there was a horrendous gaffe right at the end of it. I wish he would stay on script. Whoever wrote that speech did a good job for him. But my gosh, I wish they would keep him on script. Please Mr President, stay on script."
'Speaking From his Heart'
Leaders of Biden's political party, the Democratic Party, came to the president's rescue.
Representative Ro Khanna, an Indian-American representing California, told Fox News that "the president was speaking from his heart, but it is not US policy to see regime change".
Democrat senator from of Minnesota, Amy Klobuchar, also defended Biden, saying that it "has been made very clear" that the president "was not calling to topple Putin from power".
"We know the policy of our country. We know what it is. I think Vladimir Putin knows what it is and certainly our NATO allies and Americans know what it is," Klobuchar told ABC News on Sunday.
Cory Booker, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, similarly stated that regime change in Russia was not US policy, but he did not seen the war ending well for Putin.
"I don't see a real victory for him. His country is suffering extraordinarily. He is depleting critical resources from his own nation for this awful war. So I just don't see how this ends well for him," he asserted.
(With inputs from NBC, ABC, CNN, AFP, and Fox News)