Biden-Zelensky Conversation did Not go Well
A telephone conversation between US President Joe Biden and Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky on Thursday “did not go well”, a senior Ukrainian official told CNN. The reason for this is the disagreement over the “risk levels” of a Russian attack.
However, the White House challenged the employee's story, warning that anonymous sources were “spreading lies.” Biden's team said he had warned Zelenski that there was a “clear possibility” of an impending invasion, the television station reported.
In what the Ukrainian official described as “long and honest” conversation, Biden warned his Ukrainian counterpart that a Russian attack could be imminent, saying an invasion was almost certain after the ground freezes later in February.
However, Zelensky reiterated his position that the threat from Russia remains “dangerous but ambiguous” and there is no certainty that there will be an attack.
National Security Council spokeswoman Emily Horn challenged the description of the conversation by a senior Ukrainian official.
“Anonymous sources are leaking lies,” she told CNN. “President Biden said there was a high probability that the Russians would invade Ukraine in February. He has said this publicly and we have been warning about it for months. Reports of something more or different are completely untrue.”
The honest discussion between the two leaders came as the United States and NATO continued to prepare for a Russian invasion. While stressing the need for diplomacy, the White House warned that an invasion could be inevitable because tens of thousands of Russian troops have gathered on the Ukrainian border.
The conversation between Biden and Zelensky lasted an hour and 20 minutes on Thursday, according to a US National Security Officer. He described it as “long and serious but productive”.
Biden told Zelensky that the United States said the attack could be in February, but the US president did not say it would definitely happen, the official was quoted as saying by CNN.
Biden has promised that the United States will “respond decisively” if Russia invades and that the United States will have the opportunity for “additional macroeconomic support” for Ukraine.
A spokesman for Zelensky also challenged the Ukrainian official's description of the conversation. Zelenski wrote on Twitter that he and Biden had a long conversation in which “they discussed the recent diplomatic efforts to de-escalate and agreed on joint actions in the future.”
Had a long phone conversation with @POTUS. 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. pic.twitter.com/pAsQLYAuig— Володимир Зеленський (@ZelenskyyUa) January 27, 2022
The Ukrainian president said he thanked Biden for continued military assistance and said that “possibilities for financial support for Ukraine were also discussed.”
However, a senior Ukrainian official told CNN that Biden had told his Ukrainian counterpart that Ukraine would not be offered significantly more military assistance.
According to the official, Zelenski called on his American counterpart to “calm down the statements”, warning about the economic consequences of the panic. He also said that Ukrainian intelligence sees the threat differently.
The Ukrainian leader, citing a recent breakthrough in talks with Russia in Paris, said he hoped a ceasefire agreement with rebels in eastern Ukraine would be maintained. He also said talks between the United States, Russia and NATO must continue until diplomacy is exhausted.
Earlier, another US source said the White House understood that Zelensky had “multiple audiences” and was trying to balance them.
“On the one hand, he wants help, but he has to reassure his people that he is in control. It's a difficult balance,” the source was quoted as saying by CNN.
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