The Kremlin says US President Joe Biden’s remark that Vladimir Putin could not remain in power was a cause for alarm, a measured response to a public call from the United States for an end to Putin’s 22-year rule.
“For God’s sake, this man cannot remain in power,” Biden said on Saturday at the end of a speech to a crowd in Warsaw.
He cast Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as a battle in a much broader conflict between democracy and autocracy.
The White House tried to clarify Biden’s remarks and the president on Sunday said he had not been calling for regime change.
Asked about Biden’s comment, which was given little coverage on Russian state television, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said: “This is a statement that is certainly alarming.”
“We will continue to track the statements of the US president in the most attentive way,” Peskov told reporters.
Putin has served as Russia’s paramount leader since Boris Yeltsin resigned in 1999. The Kremlin says Putin is a democratically elected president and that the Russian people – rather than the United States – decide who leads Russia.
Biden’s remark risked fuelling accusations by top Russian officials that the United States is bent on unseating Putin.
Former president Dmitry Medvedev has said Washington wants to rip apart Russia, and Security Council chief Nikolai Patrushev has said the United States seeks to bring about a “colour revolution” like those in Georgia, Ukraine and other post-Soviet states.
Putin says Russia’s “special military operation” in Ukraine was necessary because the United States was using the country to threaten Russia and Moscow had to defend against the persecution of Russian speakers by Ukraine.
Ukraine has dismissed the claims of persecution as a baseless pretext for invading.