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Ukraine Update: Biden Says Putin ‘Cannot Remain in Power’

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These translations are done via Google Translate
President Joe Biden said the Russian leader Vladimir Putin “cannot remain in power” and that the war in Ukraine had given the world’s democracies “purpose.”

The American president made the remarks in an emotional address in Warsaw. Shortly afterward, however, White House officials said he wasn’t calling for regime change in Russia. In response to Biden’s remark, Dmitry Peskov, a Kremlin spokesman, told Reuters, “that’s not for Biden to decide. The president of Russia is elected by Russians.” Earlier, Biden labeled Putin a “butcher” as he comforted refugees in Poland. He also assured Poland’s president that the U.S. vow to defend NATO territory is a “sacred commitment.”

Daily insults of Putin “narrow the window of opportunity for normalizing dialogue, so much needed now, with the current U.S. administration,” Peskov told Bloomberg News in response to a request for comments on Biden’s remarks.

Russian shelling hit Lviv on Saturday, with television images showing firefighters battling flames near large fuel tanks. That comes a day after Russia’s military said it’s focusing on taking full control of Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region. Russia is relying on “indiscriminate” bombardment after heavy troop casualties in the month after its invasion, the U.K. said.

The U.S. and European Union unveiled an agreement to help Europe wean itself off Russian fuel imports.

(See RSAN on the Bloomberg Terminal for the Russian Sanctions Dashboard.)

Key Developments

All times CET:

Japan PM Says Invasion Could Spark World’s Biggest Crisis Since WW2 (5.20 a.m.)

Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said that the war in Ukraine could lead to the world’s greatest crisis since the second world war, Kyodo News reported.

“One-sided changes driven by force cannot be accepted in the Indo-Pacific, and particularly in East Asia,” Kishida said in a speech to new graduates at the National Defense Academy. Kishida also said he will strengthen Japan’s defense capabilities through a revision of the country’s national security strategy by the end of the year, Kyodo said.

IAEA Watching ‘Developments’ Near Chernobyl (1:46 a.m.)

The International Atomic Energy Agency said it was “monitoring developments” after being told by Ukrainian officials that Russian troops had taken control of Slavutych, a town near the defunct Chernobyl nuclear power plant in northern Ukraine.

The IAEA said in a tweet on Saturday that many of the plant’s staff live in Slavutych and that there had been “no staff rotation” at Chernobyl, the site of the 1986 nuclear accident, since Monday.

U.K. Forms Unit to Aid Negotiations, Truss Says (10:25 p.m.)

The U.K. has created a special diplomatic unit to help support Ukraine “when the Russians are serious about negotiations,” British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said in an interview with The Telegraph.

“I don’t believe they are serious at present and that’s why I’ve said we need to be tough to get peace,” Truss told the newspaper. “We need to double down on sanctions. We need to double down on the weapons that we’re sending Ukraine.”

Ukraine has said it’s ready to discuss neutral status as long as it has firm security guarantees from its partners, including Germany, the U.K. and the U.S.

U.S. to Provide $100 Million in ‘Civilian Security’ Aid (9:40 p.m.)

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that the U.S. would be providing $100 million to Ukraine for law enforcement, border security, protection for government infrastructure and other “civilian security assistance.”

“The increased funding will continue a steady flow of personal protection equipment, field gear, tactical equipment, medical supplies, armored vehicles and communication equipment for the Ukrainian State Border Guard Service and the National Police of Ukraine,” Blinken said in a State Department statement released on Saturday.

Russian Envoy Warns Warsaw Embassy May Close (8:50 p.m.)

Russia’s ambassador to Poland, Sergei Andreev, told Russian television that his country’s embassy in Warsaw may be “forced to close” because of tensions between the two countries over the war in Ukraine.

Andreev spoke on the same day that Biden denounced Putin in a fiery speech in Warsaw. “Probably, things will not come to a break in relations,” Andreev said. “Maybe we will be forced to close the embassy here for some time, naturally, in this case, the Poles will also have to close their embassy in Moscow.” Earlier this week, Poland ordered 45 Russian diplomats to leave the country.

Biden Speech Disappoints Some Ukrainians (8:30 p.m.)

While Ukraine’s Foreign and Defense Ministers spoke warmly of their meeting in Poland Saturday with Biden, there was less equivocal support for the president’s remarks among people in Ukraine.

Local television discussions after Biden’s speech and social media posts were flooded with comments of disappointment that Biden had not announced fresh sanctions on Russia or further weapons supplies for Ukraine. The president’s comment that the war could last for some time also came in for criticism.

Moscow Fires Back After Biden’s Remark on Putin (8:30 p.m.)

Peskov, the Kremlin spokesman, told the Tass news agency on Saturday that Biden’s reference to Putin as a “butcher” further diminishes the possibility for future relations between the U.S. and Russia. “The state leader should remain sober,” Peskov said.

Russia has threatened periodically since the war started to cut off ties totally as the U.S. imposes heavy economic penalties on Moscow and as Biden has branded Putin a war criminal.

White House Softens Biden Call for Putin’s Removal (7:50 p.m.)

Shortly after Biden said at the conclusion of a fiery address that Putin could not remain in power, White House officials insisted that he was not calling for the removal of the Russia leader.

Rather, they said, Biden meant that Putin should not be allowed to hold sway over Ukraine or other nations in the region. The American president was preparing to head back to Washington after delivering the speech in Warsaw.

Biden Says Putin ‘Cannot Remain in Power’ (6:50 p.m.)

Biden said Putin should not remain in power and that the war had “revitalized” the world’s democracies “with purpose and unity.” In a speech at Warsaw’s Royal Castle he implored allies to steel themselves for a long fight against an adversary he labeled a “butcher.”

“In this battle, we need to be clear-eyed: This battle will not be won in days and months either. We need to steel ourselves for the long fight ahead,” Biden said. The speech was delivered on Saturday evening after an emotional visit with Ukrainian refugees.

Lviv Hit Again By Russian Missiles (6:25 p.m.)

Mayor Andriy Sadovyi of Lviv said Russian missiles had struck the city in a second strike on Saturday. “One more missile attack,” he wrote on his Facebook page. Sadovyi said earlier that the first assault had hit “industrial facilities where fuel was stored.”

Officials said five people were injured in that attack.

Chernihiv in Ukraine’s North Encircled, Mayor Says (5:02 p.m.)

Even as the southern port city of Mariupol remains under siege, Chernihiv in Ukraine’s north, close to the Belarus border, is also encircled by Russian troops, Mayor Vladyslav Atroshenko said in a televised briefing where he warned of an expanding humanitarian crisis.

“The city is reduced to ashes,” Atroshenko said. He said more than 120,000 people remained of a pre-war population closer to 250,000, and at least 200 civilians had been killed in the past month.

Russian troops blew up a bridge that connected the city with a key road, and for now there are no evacuation routes working and no ability to get aid in, Atroshenko said.

Russia Shells Western City of Lviv (4:20 p.m.)

While Biden was visiting Poland’s capital, reports on social media and television images showed large plumes of smoke rising near Lviv, with air raid sirens sounding in the western Ukrainian city near the Polish border.

Mayor Andriy Sadovyi said Russian missiles had hit the city and told people to stay in shelters. Lviv region governor Maksym Kozytskyi said three large blasts had been felt. Russian missiles have previously hit sites in western Ukraine including a military training center and buildings near Lviv’s airport.

It comes a day after Russia’s military said it was focusing on taking full control of Ukraine’s Donbas region in the east.

Poland Asks U.S. To Speed Up Military Hardware Delivery (3:50 p.m.)

The equipment Warsaw is waiting on includes Patriot missile-defense systems, Abrams tanks and F-35 fighters. President Andrzej Duda called for the U.S. to accelerate the deliveries, adding Poland was seeking to expand co-operation with the U.S. in civilian nuclear energy and LNG.

Ukraine Foreign Minister Urges Boycott of French Firms (3:47 p.m.)

Representatives for Decathlon and Leroy Merlin declined to comment while a spokesman for Auchan didn’t immediately reply when asked to comment Saturday outside of business hours.

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has publicly called out other companies, including Nestle SA, in his push for businesses to limit their Russia operations or withdraw entirely. Many already have.

French automaker Renault SA announced on Wednesday it would halt operations at its Moscow plant, and is considering the future of a longstanding Russian venture called AvtoVaz. Nestle said it’d suspend the majority of its sales and manufacturing in Russia.

Biden Pledges ‘Sacred Commitment’ to NATO (2:12 p.m.)

The comment came as Biden met with Polish President Andrzej Duda in Warsaw, a country that’s faced warnings from Moscow for sending military aid to Ukraine, and which borders Belarus, a key ally of Russia. “We take Article 5 as a sacred commitment,” Biden said, referring to NATO’s mutual defense clause.

NATO has beefed up its presence in eastern Europe in recent weeks, although it’s repeatedly ruled out a no-fly zone for Ukraine or sending troops in, given that the country is not a member of the military alliance. Duda said Poland intends to buy more U.S. military equipment, without going into details.

Middle Eastern Leaders Lament Struggle for World Focus (2:04 p.m.)

“The humanitarian suffering that we have seen in Ukraine — and everyone is talking about it right now — has been the suffering of countries in this region for years and nothing happened actually,” Qatar’s Deputy Prime Minister, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al Thani, said Saturday at the Doha Forum in Qatar. The comment drew applause.

Top EU envoy Josep Borrell described the besieged Ukrainian city of Mariupol as “Europe’s Aleppo” — a reference to Syria’s civil war. That led Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud to retort that: “Aleppo was our Aleppo.” “The engagement of the global community and the engagement of the powers that could be effective now and then is quite different,” he said.

Russia to Expand Trading to All Stocks (1:49 p.m.)

Russia will expand limited trading to all shares listed on the Moscow Exchange in another shortened session on Monday.

The bourse will also resume trading in foreign shares, which will be traded in a so-called negotiated regime, the Bank of Russia said.

Ukrainians Fleeing to Poland Almost 2.27 Million (1:34 p.m.)

A total of 2.268 million people have fled Ukraine for Poland, Polish border authorities said. Some 30,500 entered on Friday and another 6,100 early Saturday.

Poland has taken in the majority of people leaving Ukraine. Millions more have been displaced within Ukraine — some 10 million in total. The number of people crossing into Poland on Friday was down 6.4% from the previous day.

Record Humanitarian Aid Flows to Ukraine (11:27 a.m.)

Ukraine said it received 10,300 tons of humanitarian aid in the past 24 hours, a record volume for a single day since the war started a month ago, Economy Minister Yulia Svyrydenko said.

An aide to President Voldymyr Zelenskiy said Russian troops continue their offensive at the town of Izyum in Kharkiv region.

Biden Meets With Top Ukrainian Officials, Polish President (11:45 a.m.)

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba and Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov met Saturday with their U.S. counterparts, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.

President Joe Biden joined the meeting about an hour after it started and stayed for about 40 minutes, before holding a meeting with Polish President Andrzej Duda. The U.S. leader is expected to make a “major address” later on Saturday on U.S. and allied efforts to aid Ukraine and counter Russian aggression.

Russian Defense Minister Appears in Video (11:26 a.m.)

Russia’s Defense Ministry issued a video of its chief, Sergei Shoigu, amid speculation on social media after he hadn’t been seen in public for about two weeks. Shoigu was discussing military supply priorities for the year.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, asked by reporters Thursday about the official’s absence from public view since March 11, said Shoigu had been too busy to do media events, while state television showed a video of him without sound.

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