Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called out President Joe Biden over his remarks about Russia during a press conference on Wednesday, CNN reports.
Biden said he expects Russia to invade Ukraine but said a “minor incursion” might raise discussions about how to respond.
"It's one thing if it's a minor incursion and we end up having to fight about what to do and not do," Biden told reporters. "But if they actually do what they're capable of doing with the forces amassed on the border, it is going to be a disaster for Russia if they further invade Ukraine."
Asked to clarify what he meant by “minor incursion,” Biden said he drew his line at "Russian forces crossing the border, killing Ukrainian fighters."
"I think that changes everything. But it depends on what he does, to what extent we'll get total unity on the NATO front,” Biden said. "It's very important that we keep everyone in NATO on the same page. That's what I'm spending a lot of time doing, and there are differences. There are differences in NATO as to what countries are willing to do, depending on what happens."
Ukrainian president tweets:
Zelensky called out Biden’s comments on Twitter.
"We want to remind the great powers that there are no minor incursions and small nations," Zelensky wrote. "Just as there are no minor casualties and little grief from the loss of loved ones."
Ukrainian officials said they were “stunned” by Biden’s comments.
"Speaking of minor and full incursions or full invasion, you cannot be half-aggressive. You're either aggressive or you're not aggressive," said Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba. "We should not give Putin the slightest chance to play with quasi-aggression or small incursion operations. This aggression was there since 2014. This is the fact."
Biden tries to clean up:
Biden sought to clean up his comments after White House press secretary Jen Psaki tried to do the same.
"I've been absolutely clear with President Putin. He has no misunderstanding. If any -- any -- assembled Russian units move across Ukrainian border, that is an invasion. But it will be met with severe and coordinated economic response that I've discussed in detail with our allies, as well as laid out very clearly for President Putin," Biden told reporters on Thursday, adding that if Putin invades Ukraine “Russia will pay a heavy price.”
Biden said Russia has a “long history” of using non-military action to carry out aggression.
"We have to be ready to respond to these as well and decisively," Biden said.