Biden, Zelensky have never ending conversation about Russian invasion

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Biden, Zelensky have never ending conversation about Russian invasion

The White House National Security Council was forced to issue a hasty denial late Thursday of a report that President Biden warned Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky that a Russian invasion of his country was almost certain and that he should be ready for a “sack” of the capital city Kiev.

The jarring military forecast wasn’t mentioned in official statements from the White House or Zelensky, but was relayed to CNN by an unnamed Ukrainian official.

“A Russian invasion is now virtually certain once the ground freezes, Biden said to Zelensky, a senior Ukrainian official told [CNN reporter Matthew Chance],” tweeted fellow CNN reporter Alexander Marquardt.

“Kyiv could be ‘sacked,’ Russian forces may attempt to occupy it, ‘prepare for impact’, Biden said, according to this official,” Marquardt went on.

Moments later, National Security Council spokesperson Emily Horne described the report as “completely false.”

Joe Biden
The Biden administration has threatened to penalize Russia for a potential invasion by blocking operation of the Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline.
AP

“President Biden said that there is a distinct possibility that the Russians could invade Ukraine in February,” Horne tweeted, later adding that “[r]eports of anything more or different than that are completely false.”

Zelensky rebuked Biden last week for suggesting that a “minor incursion” by Russia might result in less severe sanctions due to disagreement among NATO allies.

Biden horrified Ukrainian officials with the remark — with one saying that the American president may have given Putin a “green light” to invade.

Onshore pipe exits of the Baltic Sea pipeline Nord Stream 2 are pictured at the landfall facility in Lubmin, Germany.
The onshore pipe exits of the Baltic Sea pipeline Nord Stream 2 are pictured at the landfall facility in Lubmin, Germany.
REUTERS

“We want to remind the great powers that there are no minor incursions and small nations,” Zelensky tweeted at the time. “Just as there are no minor casualties and little grief from the loss of loved ones. I say this as the President of a great power.”

But Zelensky and the White House portrayed the Thursday call as a positive dialogue without mention of any predictions of doom for Zelensky’s pro-western government.

“Had a long phone conversation with [Biden],” Zelensky tweeted. “Discussed recent diplomatic efforts on de-escalation and agreed on joint actions for the future. Thanked President @JoeBiden for the ongoing military assistance. Possibilities for financial support to Ukraine were also discussed.”

The White House said that Biden “reaffirmed the readiness of the United States along with its allies and partners to respond decisively if Russia further invades Ukraine.”

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz
Olaf Scholz has served as Germany’s Chancellor since last month
AP

Biden also “noted the United States has provided Ukraine with over half a billion dollars in development and humanitarian assistance in the last year, and is exploring additional macroeconomic support to help Ukraine’s economy amidst pressure resulting from Russia’s military build-up.”

The afternoon call followed Biden’s outreach to US allies as he tries to forge agreement on potential economic penalties if Russian President Vladimir Putin orders military action.

Earlier Thursday, Biden met with Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Store in Washington. The visit was not listed on Biden’s public schedule, but included discussion of “joint efforts, including through NATO and the OSCE, to address Russia’s destabilizing military buildup along Ukraine’s borders,” the White House said.

Norway is the fourth-largest exporter of natural gas in the world — after Russia, the US and Qatar.

Biden is scheduled to host the emir of Qatar on Monday to discuss ways to respond to a possible Russian cutoff of natural gas supplies to Western Europe.

The White House also announced Thursday that German Chancellor Olaf Scholz will visit DC on Feb. 7 to discuss “joint efforts to deter further Russian aggression against Ukraine.”

The Biden administration has threatened to penalize Russia for a potential invasion by blocking operation of the Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline, which is poised to begin piping fuel directly to Germany under the Baltic Sea rather than through Ukraine — giving Moscow greater leverage over western Europe.

The White House waived sanctions against the project in May, with Biden citing the fact that it was “almost completely finished.” Construction was completed in September, but the pipeline is not yet operational.

Vladimir Putin
Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has demanded NATO rule out accepting Ukraine as a member.
Alexei Nikolsky/TASS/Sipa USA
Russia military
BMP-3 infantry fighting vehicles of the Russian Southern Military District’s 150th Rifle Division take part in a military exercise at Kadamovsky Range.
Erik Romanenko/TASS

Meanwhile, the US called for a Monday meeting of the United Nations Security Council to discuss the ongoing situation. 

“The members of the Security Council must squarely examine the facts and consider what is at stake for Ukraine, for Russia, for Europe, and for the core obligations and principles of the international order should Russia further invade Ukraine,” UN Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield said in a statement. “This is not a moment to wait and see. The Council’s full attention is needed now, and we look forward to direct and purposeful discussion on Monday.”

The US says Putin has massed about 100,000 troops near Ukraine’s borders. The White House recently alleged Russia may stage a “false flag” attack on its own forces to provide a justification for war. Putin is demanding that NATO rule out accepting Ukraine as a member, but the Cold War-era military alliance has declined to do so.

When Biden was vice president in 2014, Russia invaded the Crimean peninsula and then annexed the territory from Ukraine following a disputed referendum. Putin’s government also allegedly supports a pair of pro-Russia breakaway states in eastern Ukraine. 

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