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Ukraine official says in call with Zelensky, Biden told him to ‘prepare for impact’

White House denies comments, says president only spoke of ‘a distinct possibility that the Russians could invade Ukraine in February;’ US refers Ukraine crisis to Security Council

US President Joe Biden meets with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in the Oval Office of the White House, on September 1, 2021, in Washington, DC. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
US President Joe Biden meets with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in the Oval Office of the White House, on September 1, 2021, in Washington, DC. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

US President Joe Biden pledged support for Ukraine in its confrontation with Russia during a phone call Thursday with his counterpart in Kyiv, Volodymyr Zelensky, the White House said.

However, CNN quoted a senior Ukrainian official as saying that Zelensky received dire warnings from Biden that a Russian invasion of Ukraine is now “virtually certain” once the ground freezes and that Kyiv needs to “prepare for impact.”

But the White House quickly dismissed this claim.

“This is not true. President Biden said that there is a distinct possibility that the Russians could invade Ukraine in February. He has previously said this publicly and we have been warning about this for months,” said a spokesperson for the US National Security Council. “Reports of anything more or different than that are completely false.”

Biden has been leading attempts to build a united Western front against Russian military pressure on Ukraine, which has angered Moscow by seeking to integrate with the West. More than 100,000 Russian troops are massed on Ukraine’s borders.

In the call with Zelensky, Biden “reaffirmed the readiness of the United States along with its allies and partners to respond decisively if Russia further invades Ukraine,” a readout from the White House said.

Biden “underscored the commitment of the United States to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

No man’s land is seen through a periscope held by a Ukrainian serviceman on the front line in the Luhansk area, eastern Ukraine, Thursday, Jan. 27, 2022. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)

In the call, Biden said Washington is “exploring additional macroeconomic support to help Ukraine’s economy amidst pressure resulting from Russia’s military build-up,” the statement said, without going into detail.

Addressing Ukrainian criticism over the decision to call on US citizens to leave Ukraine, Biden told Zelensky that the embassy “remains open and fully operational.”

While expressing support for talks this week where Ukraine and Russia recommitted to a tense ceasefire in the disputed east of the country, Biden promised that diplomatic deals would not be cut behind Ukraine’s back, saying “nothing about Ukraine without Ukraine.”

In a tweet, Zelensky said he and the US president had “a long phone conversation” and that they “discussed recent diplomatic efforts on de-escalation and agreed on joint actions for the future.”

Zelensky said he thanked Biden for US weapons deliveries and that “possibilities for financial support to Ukraine were also discussed.”

In this photo taken from video and released by the Russian Defense Ministry Press Service on January 27, 2022, Russian S-400 Triumf surface-to-air missile systems attend military drills in Sverdlovsk region, Ural, in Russia. (Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP)

Security Council

Meanwhile, the US  said it has called for an open meeting of the UN Security Council next Monday to address the crisis around Ukraine due to what it called “threatening behavior” by Russia.

“More than 100,000 Russian troops are deployed on the Ukrainian border and Russia is engaging in other destabilizing acts aimed at Ukraine, posing a clear threat to international peace and security and the UN Charter,” Washington’s United Nations envoy Linda Thomas-Greenfield said Thursday in a statement.

“As we continue our relentless pursuit of diplomacy to de-escalate tensions,” she added, the 15-member 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.”

With fears rising that Russia could invade its neighbor, a former Soviet state, Thomas-Greenfield said the council faced a “crucial” matter for international peace and security: “Russia’s threatening behavior against Ukraine and the build-up of Russian troops on Ukraine’s borders and in Belarus.”

Ukrainian servicemen stand in a trench on the front line in the Luhansk area, eastern Ukraine, Thursday, Jan. 27, 2022. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)

She added: “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 discussions on Monday.”

As one of the five permanent members of the Security Council, Russia has veto power over any United Nations resolution brought to the council.

But Thomas-Greenfield said the meeting will be more of an opportunity to “expose Russia” for its actions and isolate the Kremlin for its aggressive posture regarding Ukraine.

“And while they do have the veto power, their isolation will be felt if the Security Council brings this, and we present a united front against the Russians,” the American envoy said in an interview on Romanian Public Television.

“I don’t think any country in the Security Council will sit back and say it’s OK for Russia to invade the borders of another country.”

Originally the United States had hoped to hold the Security Council meeting on Friday, according to diplomats.

But they said they agreed to push it to Monday so as not to interfere with a scheduled Friday phone call between French President Emmanuel Macron and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin.

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