US

Biden calls Zelensky for the first time after his Putin ‘removed from power’ gaffe

President Joe Biden had a phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky Wednesday – their first connection since Biden said Russian President Vladimir Putin ‘cannot remain in power.’

The two men spoke for a bit less than an hour, according to the White House, on a day when Zelensky renewed his push for powerful defensive weapons. 

According to a White House readout, the two men spoke ‘about the ongoing work by the United States and its allies and partners to deliver military, economic, and humanitarian assistance to Ukraine and to impose severe costs on Russia for its brutal aggression against Ukraine.’

‘The leaders discussed how the United States is working around the clock to fulfill the main security assistance requests by Ukraine,’ it said – amid domestic political pressure for Biden to do even more. 

They also spoke about ‘the critical effects those weapons have had on the conflict, and continued efforts by the United States with allies and partners to identify additional capabilities to help the Ukrainian military defend its country.’

Biden told his counterpart the US would provide $500 million in direct budgetary aid, which appears to be in addition to a recently announced $1 million in humanitarian aide, and an $800 million batch of military aid.  

‘President Zelenskyy updated President Biden on the status of Ukraine’s negotiations with Russia,’ it said. 

Biden held talks in Warsaw Saturday with Ukraine’s defense and foreign affairs ministers during his trip to Belgium and Poland.

He capped off his trip with a speech where he denounced Putin and sought to rally allies to support Ukraine.

But Zelensky and his top advisors have continued to push the U.S. and allies to do even more – including through calls to ‘close the skies’ over Ukraine and provide fighter jets. Zelensky pleaded in a speech to NATO allies for nations to spare just 1 per cent of their tanks and planes.  

Even as Biden and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Secretary of State Antony Blinken were meeting with Zelensky’s team, a top aide demanded more  ‘bravery’ from NATO allies who are arming Ukraine.

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy spoke to President Joe BIden Wednesday morning for about an hour

‘The [NATO] Alliance is taking decisions as if there [were] no war,’ Zelensky chief of staff Andriy Yermak told Atlantic Council over the weekend.

 Zelensky addressed the Norwegian parliament on Wednesday, where he called for allies to provide more weapons and defenses. He called for Harpoon rockets, anti-ship missiles, and air defenses. 

‘All weapons you can help us with will be used only to protect our freedom, your freedom,’ he said.  Harpoon rockets are long distance anti-ship missiles. 

The call comes as a U.S. official said Putin was being misled by his top advisors, amid indications he was not fully aware of the battlefield losses and logistical nightmares Russia’s forces have encountered since the start of their Feb. 24 invasion.  

‘We have information that Putin felt misled by the Russian military,’ leading him to distrust leaders, said a U.S. officials who discussed declassified information on the condition of anonymity. 

President Joe Biden delivers a speech about the Russian invasion of Ukraine, at the Royal Castle, Saturday, March 26, 2022, in Warsaw, where he concluded in a flourish where he said Putin must not remain in power

President Joe Biden delivers a speech about the Russian invasion of Ukraine, at the Royal Castle, Saturday, March 26, 2022, in Warsaw, where he concluded in a flourish where he said Putin must not remain in power

President Joe Biden participates in a meeting with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, second from left, and Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov in Warsaw

President Joe Biden participates in a meeting with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, second from left, and Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov in Warsaw

A man with belongings walks past a completely destroyed vehicle and a building after Russian shelling in Sviatoshinsky district of Kyiv, Ukraine on March 30, 2022

A man with belongings walks past a completely destroyed vehicle and a building after Russian shelling in Sviatoshinsky district of Kyiv, Ukraine on March 30, 2022

The city market is seen damaged by night shelling in Chernihiv, Ukraine, Wednesday, March 30, 2022. Ukrainian officials say Russian forces pounded areas around Kyiv and another Ukrainian city overnight. The attacks come hours after Moscow pledged to scale back military operations in those places

The city market is seen damaged by night shelling in Chernihiv, Ukraine, Wednesday, March 30, 2022. Ukrainian officials say Russian forces pounded areas around Kyiv and another Ukrainian city overnight. The attacks come hours after Moscow pledged to scale back military operations in those places

‘Putin didn’t even know his military was using and losing conscripts in Ukraine, showing a clear breakdown in the flow of accurate information to the Russian president,” the official said, Reuters reported.

Biden on Monday tried to clarify his comments about Putin, insisting he was expressing his outrage at the Russian leader’s brutality in Ukraine rather that unveiling a new U.S. policy.  

‘Number one, I’m not walking anything back,’ he said. 

‘The fact of the matter is, I was expressing the moral outrage I felt toward the way Putin is dealing … and the actions of this man, which is just brutality.’

Biden, 79, said he was not concerned that his comments would escalate tensions over the war in Ukraine.

‘This is just stating a simple fact, that this kind of behavior is totally unacceptable,’ he said.

Zelensky, for his part, has said he is open to direct talks with Putin – and in a recent interview signaled he was open to Ukrainian ‘neutrality,’ but said any change in status must be decided in a referendum after the removal of Russian troops. 


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