Ukrainian President pushes back on Biden: ‘There are no minor incursions’
By Jeremy Herb, CNN
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky publicly pushed back Thursday on US President Joe Biden’s comments that a “minor incursion” by Russia into Ukraine would prompt a lesser response than a full-scale invasion, in an implicit rebuke of Biden’s comments.
“We want to remind the great powers that there are no minor incursions and small nations,” Zelensky wrote on Twitter in an apparent response Biden’s remarks on Wednesday. “Just as there are no minor casualties and little grief from the loss of loved ones.”
Biden’s comments at a news conference Wednesday about the prospect of Russian military action alarmed Ukrainian officials as Russia has amassed tens of thousands of troops along the border and US officials have warned an attack could be imminent.
In his comments Wednesday, Biden suggested that a “minor incursion” could prompt a disagreement among NATO countries about how strongly to respond to Moscow.
“It’s one thing if it’s a minor incursion and we end up having to fight about what to do and not do, et cetera,” Biden said.
“If there is something that is where there’s Russian forces crossing the border, killing Ukrainian fighters, et cetera, I think that changes everything,” the President later said. “But it depends on what he does, to what extent we’ll get total unity on the NATO front.”
Biden also suggested he believed Putin would launch an attack, though he said he didn’t believe the Russian President had made up his mind.
“I’m not so sure he is certain what he is going to do. My guess is he will move in. He has to do something,” Biden said.
Officials in Kyiv were “stunned” in the immediate aftermath of Biden’s comments, CNN reported Wednesday.
On Thursday, Ukraine’s foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, told the Wall Street Journal that Biden’s comments could serve as an invitation to attack by Moscow.
“Speaking of minor and full incursions or full invasion, you cannot be half-aggressive. You’re either aggressive or you’re not aggressive,” Kuleba said. “We should not give Putin the slightest chance to play with quasi-aggression or small incursion operations. This aggression was there since 2014. This is the fact.”
White House press secretary Jen Psaki sought to clean up Biden’s comments after Wednesday’s news conference, saying on Twitter, “President Biden has been clear with the Russian President: If any Russian military forces move across the Ukrainian border, that’s a renewed invasion, and it will be met with a swift, severe, and united response from the United States and our Allies.”
Vice President Kamala Harris said on ABC’s Good Morning America Thursday, “We will interpret any violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity by Russia and Vladimir Putin as an aggressive action and it will be met with costs, severe and certain.”
This story is breaking and will be updated.
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