White House calls CNN report on Russian invasion ‘completely false’
The White House has pushed back on a CNN report about Thursday’s phone call between US President Joe Biden and his Ukrainian counterpart, Volodymyr Zelensky, calling it “completely false.”
“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. Reports of anything more or different than that are completely false,” Emily Horne, a spokeswoman for the National Security Council, tweeted on Thursday evening.
She was responding to a tweet by CNN’s senior national security correspondent, Alexander Marquardt, who was quoting his colleague in Kiev, Matthew Chance.
“A Russian invasion is now virtually certain once the ground freezes, Biden said to Zelensky, a senior Ukrainian official told [Chance]. Kyiv could be ‘sacked,’ Russian forces may attempt to occupy it, ‘prepare for impact’, Biden said, according to this official,” Marquardt tweeted.
CNN’s The Lead with Jake Tapper had Chance cite “the Ukrainian official” live on air.
“The capital, Kiev, this city here, could be ‘sacked.’ That’s the word he [Biden] apparently used, according to this Ukrainian official. [It could be] sacked by Russian forces,” Chance told Tapper.
Chance went on to quote what he called a “quite impactful line” from the Biden-Zelensky call as narrated to him by the anonymous Ukrainian official. “President Biden [was] telling his Ukrainian counterpart that Ukraine should prepare for impact. Quite a stark warning there from the US leader.”
The segment, however, was subsequently removed from The Lead’s Twitter account.
The quote was quickly picked up by other outlets, such as The Independent, The Express, and the Daily Mail. Meanwhile, CNN anchor Jim Sciutto quoted Horne as saying that “anonymous sources are ‘leaking’ falsehoods” about the call.
Zelensky’s spokesman, Sergey Nykyforov, likewise dismissed reports citing the alleged “senior Ukrainian official” as “completely false.”
“Correct information can only be found in official releases from the Ukrainian and American sides,” he stated.
Officially, the Biden-Zelensky call on Thursday afternoon went well, with the two presidents discussing the ongoing US military and financial aid to Ukraine. Biden reiterated US support for Ukraine and told Zelensky the US and its allies were ready to “respond decisively if Russia further invades Ukraine,” according to the official White House readout.
Biden also told his Ukrainian colleague that the US embassy in Kiev “remains open and fully operational” even though some family members of diplomats and staff were evacuated this week.
The two presidents noted the success of Wednesday’s talks in Paris, where Russia and Ukraine agreed on the matter of maintaining the ceasefire in the disputed region of Donbass and scheduled another meeting in Berlin in two weeks.