by Debra Heine
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Friday took a thinly veiled shot at Joe Biden, saying “I am the President of Ukraine. I am based here. I think I know the details deeper than any other president,” after Biden had warned him in a phone call that a Russian invasion was “imminent.”
According to a CNN report, which is disputed by the White House, Biden told Zelensky during an hour and 20 minutes long conversation on Thursday that the Capital city of Kyiv could be “sacked” by Russian forces, and to “prepare for impact.” Biden also reportedly said an invasion was “virtually certain” in February when the ground will be more frozen in Ukraine.
In response, Zelensky urged Biden to tone down his rhetoric about a potential invasion, citing concerns that it could cause panic or a run on supplies, CNN reported.
CNN’s report was corroborated by Christopher Miller, a reporter for Buzzfeed News, who said that his sources in Zelensky’s office had told him basically the same thing.
“My sources in Zelensky’s office say this is relatively accurate regarding what Biden said,” Miller tweeted. “But Zelensky disagreed with the US assessment.”
In full damage control Thursday, the Biden White House said that Biden did warn Zelensky that an imminent invasion is a “distinct possibility,” but other details in the CNN report were “completely false.”
National Security Council spokeswoman Emily Horne tweeted: “Anonymous sources are ‘leaking’ falsehoods. President Biden said that there is a distinct possibility that the Russians could invade Ukraine in February. He has said this publicly and we have been warning about this for months. Reports of anything more or different than that are completely false.”
During a press conference on Friday, Zelensky reiterated his concerns that the heated rhetoric coming from the West could cause a panic in his country.
He told reporters that he is “grateful to the United States for their ongoing support for our sovereignty and territorial integrity, but I am the President of Ukraine. I am based here. I think I know the details deeper than any other president.”
He added: “It’s important that the president should know the situation from me, not from their intermediaries.”
Zelensky stressed that he is not accusing Biden of “influencing the media,” but that the media policy should be “well balanced,” and if the press wants to report on what is going on in Ukraine, they should go to Kyiv and see it for themselves.
“Do we have tanks on the streets? No. But the feeling is, if you’re not here—the image that mass media creates—that we have troops on the roads, we have mobilization, people are leaving from places. That’s not the case! We don’t need this panic,” he said.
Zelensky conceded that an “escalation” is possible, but in his opinion, the Biden White House’s insistence on pushing a doomsday narrative for Ukraine is a “mistake.”
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