US President Joe Biden said on Monday he would “not apologize” after his recent comment that Russian President Vladimir Putin “cannot stay in power”, stressing that he was “expressing moral outrage “and that he wasn’t actually calling for regime change in Moscow.
“People like that shouldn’t rule countries, but they do. Just because they do it doesn’t mean I can’t express my outrage about it,” Biden told reporters at the White House on Monday.
“He wasn’t articulating a policy change,” he said.
The president’s offhand comment about Putin, while speaking to Ukrainian refugees and international volunteers in Poland on Saturday, sparked controversy in the United States and caught some allies in Western Europe by surprise.
“The last thing I want to do is engage in a ground war or a nuclear war with Russia,” Biden said, while rejecting the idea that his comment could heighten tensions over the war in Ukraine.
Meanwhile, Russian troops have halted ground advances toward the Ukrainian capital of kyiv, while appearing to refocus on Ukraine’s eastern regions, according to a senior US Department of Defense official.
“Clearly they are no longer advancing towards kyiv,” said the official, who briefed reporters on Monday. “What we are seeing is this continued priority in the Donbas.”
Moscow’s latest military change appears to be an effort to isolate Ukrainian forces in the eastern region, according to the official, adding that the move “could be an attempt by the Russians to gain influence in negotiations” on peace with proxies. Ukrainians trying to end the war.
Britain’s Defense Ministry said Monday that a private Russian mercenary company, the Wagner Group, has been deployed to eastern Ukraine.
“They are expected to deploy more than 1,000 mercenaries, including senior leaders of the organization, to undertake combat operations,” the ministry said. He added that troops were being withdrawn from Syria and Africa.
The top commander of the US military in Africa, General Stephen Townsend, told the FLY earlier this month that the Wagner Group was trying to recruit its mercenaries in Africa to fight in the Ukraine.
Russia has been supporting separatists in the Donbass region of eastern Ukraine since at least 2014, when Moscow illegally annexed Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula.
Ukrainian forces have prevented Russian troops from taking most major cities.
Nearly 5,000 people, including more than 200 children, have been killed in the southern city of Mariupol, which Russia has shelled heavily since the invasion began last month, according to the mayor’s office.
Mariupol’s mayor on Monday called for the evacuation of the remaining 160,000 residents. However, Ukraine’s deputy prime minister said humanitarian corridors would not be opened due to intelligence reports of possible Russian attacks on the routes.
“We’ve seen the Russians announce humanitarian corridors and then bomb them, fire mortars at them, or quickly attack them,” the senior US defense official said Monday in response to a question from the FLYwithout referring to Ukraine’s recent claims.
Near kyiv, the large suburb of Irpin has been liberated from Russian forces, according to Mayor Alexander Markushin, who assured that in case of further attack they will “protect” it.
Last week, the deputy chief of the general staff of the Russian armed forces said that Russia’s “main tasks” for the invasion of Ukraine were complete.
“The combat capabilities of the Ukrainian armed forces have been substantially reduced, which allows us to concentrate our main efforts on achieving the main goal – the liberation of Donbas,” Colonel General Sergei Rudskoi said.
However, last week a senior US defense official said the Ukrainians still have more than 90% of their combat power, in part because the US and other allies have resupplied them “in real time”.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said his country’s “sovereignty and territorial integrity” are a priority as Ukraine and Russia head for a new round of peace talks.
“We are looking for peace, really, without delay,” Zelenskyy said in a video address on Sunday night. “There is an opportunity and a need for a face-to-face meeting in Turkey. This is not bad. Let’s see the result.”
Earlier on Sunday, in a call with Russian journalists, Zelenskyy said Ukraine was open to adopting a neutral status as part of a peace deal if it came with third-party guarantees and was put to a referendum.
Turkey is prepared to host the last talks. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Monday that he will meet briefly with the Russian and Ukrainian delegations ahead of Tuesday’s talks.
Speaking about the peace talks, Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said on national television on Monday that “the minimum program will be humanitarian issues, and the maximum program will be reaching an agreement on a ceasefire.” .
“We are not trading in people, land or sovereignty,” he added.
The United Nations says the Russian invasion of Ukraine has driven 10 million people from their homes and more than 3.8 million have fled the country.
In response to the invasion, the NATO alliance increased defenses on its eastern flank and last week announced four new battle groups in Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania and Slovakia. Individual NATO members have also unilaterally sent troops and equipment to allied countries, including Poland and the Baltic states, which are Russia’s neighbors and have hosted NATO battle groups since 2017.
Pentagon press secretary John Kirby announced that six US Navy EA-18G Growler planes and some 250 aircrews would arrive in Germany on Monday to bolster NATO defenses.
“These Growlers … specialize in conducting electronic warfare missions, using a jamming sensor array to confuse enemy radar,” Kirby told reporters.
“They are there to bolster the alliance’s deterrent capabilities on the eastern flank. They are not there to attack Russian assets. That is not the goal,” the US Defense official added.
[El corresponsal de seguridad nacional Jeff Seldin contribuyó a este informe. Parte de la información para este informe provino de The Associated Press, Agence France-Presse y Reuters.]
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