The White House on Thursday disputed a CNN report on a telephone call between Joe Biden to Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelensky which allegedly “did not go well.”
Thursday evening, a US national security official described that call, which lasted an hour and 20 minutes, as “serious,” but “productive.”
Earlier in the day, CNN anchor Jake Tapper reported that a senior Ukrainian official told the network that the two leaders had sharply disagreed about the urgency of the threat of a Russia invasion.
Biden, according to the source, had told Zelensky that a Russian invasion was “imminent,” that the Capital city of Kyiv could be “sacked” by Russian forces, and to “prepare for impact.” Biden reportedly said an invasion was “virtually certain” in February when the ground will be more frozen in Ukraine.
A Russian invasion is now virtually certain once the ground freezes, Biden said to Zelensky, a senior Ukrainian official told @mchancecnn. Kyiv could be “sacked," Russian forces may attempt to occupy it, “prepare for impact”, Biden said, according to this official.
— Alexander Marquardt (@MarquardtA) January 27, 2022
The Ukrainian official told CNN that Zelensky responded that the threat from Russia “remains dangerous and ambiguous,” but it was not certain that an attack would even take place. The Ukraine president reportedly told Biden to “calm down the messaging,” and voiced concern about the economic impact of a panic.
According to the source, Biden also told Zelenski that Ukraine would not be receiving significantly more help from the United States, including no ground troops.
— The Lead CNN (@TheLeadCNN) January 28, 2022
Christopher Miller, a reporter for Buzzfeed News, 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.”
The Biden White House said that Biden did warn Zelensky that an imminent invasion is a “distinct possibility,” but other details in the 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.”
Below is the White House “readout” of the phone call between Biden and President Zelensky:
President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. spoke today with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy of Ukraine. President Biden reaffirmed the readiness of the United States along with its allies and partners to respond decisively if Russia further invades Ukraine. He also underscored the commitment of the United States to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
President Biden 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. President Biden made clear that despite the departure of American family members of embassy personnel, the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv, remains open and fully operational.
The leaders discussed coordinated diplomatic efforts on European security, underscoring the principle of “nothing about Ukraine without Ukraine.” President Biden relayed the United States’ support for conflict resolution efforts in the Normandy Format, expressing his hope that the sides’ recommitment on January 26 to the terms of the July 2020 ceasefire will help decrease tensions and advance the implementation of the Minsk Agreements.