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Ukrainian official says CNN Biden’s call with Ukrainian president ‘did not go well’, but White House disputes account

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Ukrainian official says CNN Biden’s call with Ukrainian president ‘did not go well’, but White House disputes account

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The White House, however, disputed the official’s account, warning that unnamed sources were “running lies.” They said Biden had warned Zelensky that an impending invasion was a “distinct possibility.”

Zelensky, however, reaffirmed his position that the threat from Russia remains “dangerous but ambiguous”, and it is uncertain whether an attack will take place, the official said.

National Security Council spokeswoman Emily Horne took issue with the senior Ukrainian official’s description of the call. “Anonymous sources are ‘leaking’ lies,” she told CNN. “President Biden said there was a real possibility the Russians would invade Ukraine in February. He said so publicly and we’ve been warning him for months. Reports of anything more or different are completely wrong.”

The candid discussion between the two leaders comes as the United States and NATO continue to prepare for the prospect of a Russian invasion. Although they stressed the need for diplomacy, the White House warned that an invasion could be imminent with tens of thousands of Russian troops massed on the Ukrainian border.

The call lasted an hour and 20 minutes on Thursday, according to a US national security official, underscoring the broad issues the two leaders had to discuss amid Russian troop buildups. The official called the call “long and earnest” but “productive” as Biden and Zelensky discussed Russia’s recent assaults.

Biden told Zelensky that U.S. officials had estimated an invasion could potentially happen in February, but did not say it definitely would, the official said.

White House says Biden promised US would ‘respond decisively’ if Russia invades

A reading of the White House appeal said Biden had “reaffirmed” to Zelensky that the United States would “respond decisively should Russia further invade Ukraine.” Biden also said the United States would explore “additional macroeconomic support” to help Ukraine’s economy following Russia’s military buildup.

“President Biden noted that the United States has provided Ukraine more than half a billion dollars in development and humanitarian assistance over the past year, and is exploring additional macroeconomic support to help the Ukrainian economy amid pressure from Russia’s military buildup,” the White House said. said in the reading.

A spokesperson for Zelensky also disputed the Ukrainian official’s characterization of the call. Zelensky tweeted that he and Biden had a lengthy call in which they “discussed recent diplomatic efforts on de-escalation and agreed on joint actions moving forward.” Ukraine’s president said he thanked Biden for ongoing military assistance and said “possibilities of financial support to Ukraine were also discussed.”

The senior Ukrainian official, however, told CNN that Biden had said Ukraine would not be offered much more military aid.

Zelensky urged his US counterpart to “calm the messages”, warning of the economic impact of the panic, according to the official. He also said Ukrainian intelligence saw the threat differently.

The Ukrainian leader highlighted a recent breakthrough in talks with Russia in Paris, saying he hoped a ceasefire agreement with rebels in eastern Ukraine would hold. He also said talks between the United States, Russia and NATO still had some way to go before diplomatic efforts were exhausted, the official said.

Earlier in the day, another source on the US side said there was recognition in the White House that Zelensky had “multiple audiences” and was trying to balance them. “On the one hand, he wants help, but he has to assure his people that he’s in control. It’s a delicate balance,” the source said.

The Pentagon says the reinforcement of Russia continues

Russia’s military buildup along the Ukrainian border has increased in the past 24 hours, the Pentagon said Thursday, as the United States awaits Russian President Vladimir Putin’s response to his written proposals submitted to Moscow on Wednesday.

“We continue to see, including in the last 24 hours, a buildup of credible combat forces deployed by the Russians, again, in the western part of their country and in Belarus,” the press secretary of the Pentagon, John Kirby, during a press briefing.

Kirby described the buildup as “not dramatic” but “not sclerotic either.”

The United States remains hopeful that diplomatic efforts with Russia can lead to de-escalation. On Wednesday, the United States and NATO submitted separate written responses to Russia’s publicly aired concerns, an overture that Moscow had requested. Although the United States has not disclosed the contents of the document, Secretary of State Antony Blinken told reporters on Wednesday that he gave no basis for NATO’s “open door policy”. , leaving the US at odds with Russia’s central demand that NATO pledge never to admit Ukraine.

Putin read the responses from the United States and NATO, a Kremlin spokesman said on Thursday, but Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said they had not responded to Russia’s main concerns .

“There is no positive reaction to the main issue of this document,” Lavrov told reporters in Moscow. “The main problem is our clear position on the inadmissibility of further NATO expansion in the East and the deployment of strike weapons that could threaten the territory of the Russian Federation.”

Blinken said Thursday that he “heard a variety of initial responses from different people in Russia to the document that we shared with them, as well as the document that NATO shared with them.”

“But the answer that matters is President Putin’s answer, and as far as we know, according to the Russians, these papers are on his desk,” he said in an interview with Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

“And we are eagerly awaiting his response, which I’m sure will be conveyed by Foreign Minister Lavrov and others in the coming days. That’s what matters most,” he said. he declares.

On Thursday evening, US Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield called for a UN Security Council meeting on the crisis on Monday.

US officials have continued to stress that they are ready to act whether Russia continues diplomacy or fresh aggression against Ukraine, and on Thursday European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said “nothing is irrelevant” regarding sanctions should Moscow invade – including the destruction of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline linking Russia to Germany and the withdrawal of Russia from the international payment system SWIFT.

“The commission is responsible for designing, shaping and developing the sanctions,” von der Leyen told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour. “We are very clear that if there is any further aggression or military aggression by Russia against Ukraine, there will be massive consequences and significant costs for Russia.”

Pentagon details troops on heightened alert

Earlier this week, up to 8,500 US troops were placed on heightened alert to prepare to deploy to Eastern Europe. Those troops include elements of the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, as well as elements of the 18th Airborne Corps, 101st Airborne Division and Fourth Infantry Division, Kirby said Thursday.

These units include “medical support, air support, logistics support” and “combat training”, the Pentagon spokesman said.

In Europe, Kirby said the U.S. European Command’s top general, Gen. Tod Wolters, was “taking careful steps” to ensure U.S. troops based in Europe could be moved to the continent if necessary.

The Pentagon is “not ruling out” the possibility that forces in Europe could be moved to “help build the capabilities of NATO allies,” Kirby said.

CNN reported Wednesday that the United States and a handful of allies are in talks to deploy thousands more troops to NATO countries in Eastern Europe ahead of any possible Russian invasion of Ukraine as a sign. of support in the face of ongoing aggression from Moscow, according to three familiar US officials. with the discussions.

Among the countries considering accepting deployments are Romania, Bulgaria and Hungary. The deployments would number around 1,000 personnel in each country and would be similar to the forward battle groups currently stationed in the Baltic states and Poland.

“We take our commitment to NATO seriously. And we will consult with our allies, as we certainly have done in the coming days. And if there are ways to build their capabilities to strengthen their defensive postures, we let’s take a serious look at this,” Kirby said.

CNN’s Kaitlan Collins, Jennifer Hansler, Natasha Bertrand, Ellie Kaufman and Kylie Atwood contributed reporting.

Ukrainian official says CNN Biden’s call with Ukrainian president ‘did not go well’, but White House disputes account

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