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Joe Biden: We’re not looking to overthrow Vladimir Putin – Sydney Morning Herald


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Three months after Russia drew international condemnation for invading Ukraine, triggering a wave of military support for Kyiv, US President Joe Biden has clarified that the US does not seek regime change in Moscow.
In an opinion piece for The New York Times, Biden said: “As much as I disagree with [Russian President Vladimir] Putin, and find his actions an outrage, the United States will not try to bring about his ouster in Moscow.
US President Joe Biden said the US was “not encouraging or enabling Ukraine to strike beyond its borders”.Credit:AP
“So long as the United States or our allies are not attacked, we will not be directly engaged in this conflict, either by sending American troops to fight in Ukraine or by attacking Russian forces.”
Biden also wrote that the US did not “seek a war between NATO and Russia”.
While announcing plans for the US to supply Ukraine with medium-range rocket launchers to push Russians back from their advances in the country’s east, Biden specified that the US was “not encouraging or enabling Ukraine to strike beyond its borders”.
Russia’s Vladimir Putin. Credit:AP
Biden did not rule out providing any specific weapons system, but instead appeared to be placing conditions on how they could be used.
He wanted to help Ukraine defend itself but has been opposed to providing weapons that Ukraine could use to attack Russia.
“We do not want to prolong the war, just to inflict pain on Russia.”
A Russian air strike on Sievierodonetsk has hit a chemical plant.Credit:Internet
Thousands of people have been killed in Ukraine and millions more displaced since the Russian invasion on February 24.
The West has been increasingly willing to give Ukraine longer-range weaponry, including M777 howitzers, as its forces battle Russians with more success than intelligence officials had predicted.
Biden’s reassurance comes nearly two decades after then-president George W. Bush pushed for the invasion of Iraq, resulting in the toppling of Saddam Hussein. The invasion unleashed a period of regional instability and drew fierce criticism from across the world.
The US plan tries to strike a balance between the desire to help Ukraine battle ferocious Russian artillery barrages and not providing arms that could allow Ukraine to hit targets deep inside Russia and trigger an escalation in the war.
But US intelligence has also warned about growing risks, particularly given a mismatch between Putin’s apparent ambitions and the performance of his military.
In Biden’s opinion piece published on Wednesday , he announced his administration would send Ukraine a few high-tech, medium-range rocket systems.
That’s a critical weapon that Ukrainian leaders have been begging for as they struggle to stall Russian progress in the Donbas region.
People travel in a tram in Sievierodonetsk, the Luhansk region, eastern Ukraine.Credit:AP
US officials say the aid package expected to be unveiled on Wednesday would send what the US considers medium-range rockets that can generally travel about 70 kilometres.
The expectation is that Ukraine could use the rockets in the Donbas, where they could both intercept Russian artillery and take out Russian positions in towns where fighting is intense, such as Sievierodonetsk in the Luhansk province.
The announcement came as a regional Ukrainian governor said a Russian bombardment on Sievierodonetsk had caused a leak of toxic nitric acid from an industrial facility.
Luhansk Governor Serhiy Haidai said a Russian airstrike had hit a tank of nitric acid at a chemical factory in Sievierodonetsk, causing a massive leak of its fumes.
He posted a picture of a huge rose-coloured cloud hanging over the city and urged residents not to leave their homes and to wear gas masks or make improvised masks from fabric soaked in soda solution.
Ukraine said on Tuesday that Russia had taken control of most of the eastern industrial city, a bombed-out wasteland whose capture Moscow has made the principal objective of its invasion.
Russia’s all-out assault on the city has been met by tough resistance from Ukrainian forces. Russian-backed separatists acknowledged that capturing the city was taking longer than hoped, despite one of the biggest ground attacks of the three-month-long war.
After failing to capture the Ukrainian capital Kyiv and being driven out of northern Ukraine, a Russian victory in Sievierodonetsk and across the Siverskyi Donets river in Lysychansk would bring full control of Luhansk, one of two eastern provinces Moscow claims on behalf of separatists.
Western military analysts say Moscow has drained manpower and firepower from other parts of the eastern front to concentrate on Sievierodonetsk, hoping a massive offensive will secure the surrounding Luhansk province for separatist proxies.
Luhansk’s governor said nearly all the critical infrastructure in Sievierodonetsk had been destroyed and 60 per cent of residential property was damaged beyond repair.
“Most of Sievierodonetsk is under the control of the Russians. The town is not surrounded and the prerequisites for it to be are not in place,” Haidai said. Russian shelling had made it impossible to deliver aid or evacuate people, he added.
A pro-Moscow separatist leader said that fighting was raging in the city but that Russian proxies had advanced more slowly than expected to “maintain the city’s infrastructure” and exercise caution around its chemical factories.
It has come under intensive artillery barrage and airstrikes as the Russian forces fought Ukrainian troops for control of the city in violent street battles.
The mayor of Sievierodonetsk said Russian forces had taken around half of the city.
Oleksandr Striuk told AP in a phone interview on Tuesday that heavy fighting was ongoing and artillery bombardments threatened the lives of the thousands of civilians still sheltering in the ruined city.
“Half of the city has been captured by the Russians and fierce street fighting is under way,” Striuk said. “The situation is very serious and the city is essentially being destroyed ruthlessly block by block.”
He added that “the Ukrainian military continues to resist this frenzied push and aggression by Russian forces”.
Striuk estimated that 13,000 people remained in the city out of a pre-war population of about 100,000 but said it was impossible to keep track of civilian casualties amid round-the-clock shelling.
He said more than 1500 people in the city who died of various causes have been buried since the war began in February. Evacuation efforts have been halted because of the danger of shelling.
President Dmitry Medvedev, the deputy head of Russia’s Security Council.Credit:AP
He said that “civilians are dying from direct strikes, from fragmentation wounds and under the rubble of destroyed buildings, since most of the inhabitants are hiding in basements and shelters”.
Meanwhile, in Russia, the deputy head of Russia’s Security Council has alleged that sanctions against the country, including new measures targeting oil exports, were aimed at hurting ordinary Russians and motivated by hatred.
Dmitry Medvedev, who is also a former president and prime minister, wrote on Telegram on Tuesday that sanctions don’t affect the Russian political elite and won’t be “fatal” for big business, but are “directed precisely against the people of Russia”.
He claimed that measures affecting oil and gas were aimed at forcing the government to introduce budget cuts.
“An embargo on buying oil and gas from Russia? The same thing: to reduce the budget incomes and force the state to abandon its social obligations [such as raising payments in line with inflation],” he wrote.
The European Union has agreed on a ban affecting all Russian exports of oil by sea to the EU, but not by a key pipeline to some Central and Eastern European countries including Hungary. The EU hasn’t introduced an embargo on Russian gas.
After listing sanctions in various sectors, Medvedev wrote, “They hate us all! The basis for these decisions is hatred for Russia, for Russians and for all its inhabitants.”
AP, Reuters, with staff
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