Biden brands Putin a ‘dictator’
Published: 11:25 2 March 2022 Updated: 21:08 2 March 2022
US President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin; Photo: Collected
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The United States (US) President Joe Biden branded Vladimir Putin a “dictator” on Tuesday and warned Russia’s billionaires that he will “come after” their yachts and private jets, as Russian airstrikes pummeled Ukraine in a bid to crush the US ally’s resistance.
Despite sanctions and warnings of a humanitarian crisis, Moscow launched a fresh assault on a residential block in Ukraine’s second city of Kharkiv as the US leader sought to steel the American public’s resolve for the turmoil ahead.
“A Russian dictator, invading a foreign country, has cost around the world,” Biden told lawmakers in his annual State of the Union address, promising “robust action to make sure the pain of our sanctions is targeted at Russia’s economy.”
Biden had planned to tout his policy successes during his speech, discuss how the United States had turned a corner on the pandemic and outline what he wanted to accomplish in the coming months.
But much of that was upended by one of the most significant geopolitical crises since the end of the Cold War, as Putin’s nuclear saber-rattling sent shockwaves through the international community.
In an emotional start to Biden’s address, lawmakers packed into the US Congress gave a standing ovation to the Ukrainian people as the President voiced solidarity with the ex-Soviet country.
Speaking on day six of Russia’s invasion, Biden said Putin’s aggression was “premeditated and totally unprovoked” – but hailed the resolve of the Western alliance in responding with brutal sanctions.
“(Putin) thought he could divide us here at home,” Biden said. “But Putin was wrong. We are ready.”
Biden said he had tasked the Department of Justice with assembling a task force to go after the “crimes” of the Russian oligarchs “to find and seize their yachts, their luxury apartments their private jets.”
“We are coming for your ill-begotten gains,” he promised.
“And tonight I am announcing that we will join our allies in closing off American air space to all Russian flights – further isolating Russia and adding an additional squeeze on their economy.”
Earlier, Biden had spoken on the phone to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who accused Moscow of “state terrorism” over the bombardment of Kharkiv.
Although Russia has denied targeting civilian infrastructure, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson called the assault “absolutely sickening” and reminiscent of massacres of civilians in Sarajevo in the 1990s. — AFP
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