President Joe Biden said Wednesday that Russia’s repeated attacks on civilian targets in Ukraine are an attempt by Russian President Vladimir Putin to force Ukrainians to surrender – and that this will fail.
He was asked about Putin’s latest move, which declared martial law in four annexed Ukrainian territories seized by Russia in a recent attempt to use force to impose order and control.
That was followed by days of increased bombing of homes and other civilian targets, as well as the infrastructure that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy had cut off power to a third of his country.
“I think Vladimir Putin is in an incredibly difficult position,” Biden told reporters, pausing to collect his thoughts while holding a binder of materials.
Russia’s repeated bombings in Ukraine are part of an effort to “intimidate” the people there into forcing their surrender, President Biden said at the White House on Wednesday
“And to me it reflects that his only tool at his disposal is to brutalize individual citizens in Ukraine, Ukrainian citizens, to try to intimidate them into surrendering. They won’t do that.’
Biden then concluded at an event in the Roosevelt Room that discussed the release of oil from a US strategic reserve intended in part to counteract the effects of the war in Ukraine.
“That’s why I’ve been doing everything in my power to bring down gas prices since Putin’s invasion of Ukraine caused those price hikes, those prices soared and rocked international oil markets,” Biden said.
Leaving the event, he declined to respond to a question about meeting Putin at the upcoming G20 summit in Indonesia.
This was followed by reports that the government is ruling out a meeting between the two leaders in private as Russia’s brutal war in Ukraine continues to drive the countries apart.
Putin said regional governors in the regions taken out of Ukraine after referendums under armed occupation that the US and its allies denounced as “sham” would be given emergency powers to establish order.
“We are working to solve very difficult, large-scale tasks to ensure the security and secure future of Russia and to protect our people,” Putin said in a televised address.
Biden paused before reflecting on the war in Ukraine when asked about Putin’s move to impose martial law in the annexed territories
“Those who are on the front lines or training at shooting ranges and training centers should feel our support and know that they have our big, great country and our united people at their backs.”
The government has never discussed the possibility of a meeting, even after Putin, whom Biden has called a “war criminal,” indicated he wanted to attend.
Biden kept alive the possibility of a close talk last week, in comments that made clear he had no intention of opening a broader discussion about the war after Putin’s repeated attacks on the US and bombing of civilians in Ukraine.
“Look, I have no intention of meeting him, but look if he came up to me at the G20 and said, ‘I want to talk about the release of [detained American Brittney] Griner, “I would meet with him, but that would depend,” Biden said.
Now officials have gone so far as to say they will refrain from even having an informal “side” meeting with Putin, Politico reported.
US officials have “ruled out” a formal meeting with Putin and are “taking steps” to ensure they don’t meet in a hallway or take the typical “family photo.”
Putin himself expressed pessimism about the odds as his military unleashed a spate of drone and missile attacks on civilian targets in Ukraine, drawing repeated condemnations from the West.
The Russian leader said Friday there was “no need” to meet Biden and his own participation was “unconcluded.”
Russia continues to attack civilian targets in Ukraine
As Russia’s war against Ukraine rages on, the government is working to prevent even a meeting between the president and Russian President Vladimir Putin at the upcoming G20 summit in Bali. The two men met in June at the start of Biden’s presidency at a villa in Geneva
Biden has called Putin a “homicidal dictator” as well as a “pure thug” and a “murderer” but previously held open the possibility of speaking to him about the release of WNBA star Brittney Griner
Indonesia announced Putin’s plans to attend
Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelenskyy, whose country is not a member of the G20, said he would attend if Putin did
Firefighters work after a Russian attack on energy infrastructure in Kyiv, Ukraine, October 18, 2022. Russia’s strikes on Ukrainian infrastructure are ongoing and have resulted in the destruction of 30% of the country’s electrical installations since October 10, the Ukrainian said President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Tuesday
Ukraine and the US blew up what several videos and images reveal as Russia’s use of Iranian-made drones
Biden is already likely to face a dictator he describes as the US’s top competitor: China’s Xi Jinping, who after a decade is set to secure a third term at the Chinese Communist Party’s National Congress in Beijing on energy.
Biden said last month he was open to meeting Xi. The two men spoke by phone in March, when the President warned Beijing it would face consequences if it backed the Russian invasion, and again in July.
Biden has called Putin a “homicidal dictator” as well as a “pure thug” and a “murderer.”
Biden didn’t gain much from his last face-to-face meeting with an autocratic ruler. He suffered political blows for his “fist bump” with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman last summer, but the Saudis enraged the government when OPEC+ voted to cut oil production – a move helping Putin to end his war finance and keep oil prices higher weeks before US elections.
Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, whose country is hosting the summit, invited Putin and traveled to Moscow in June to personally extend the invitation.
At the urging of the US and other leaders, Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelenskyy, whose nation is not a member, also invited. Zelenskyi said he would attend if Putin did.