Ukraine sees no deviation from U.S. policy in Biden 'incursion' remark


  • World
  • Thursday, 20 Jan 2022

FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Joe Biden is seen through a glass doorway as he speaks by phone with Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, U.S., December 9, 2021. REUTERS/Leah Millis/File Photo

KYIV (Reuters) - Ukraine sees no deviation from U.S. policy in a remark by President Joe Biden that Russia could bear a lower cost for an "incursion" rather than for an "invasion" of Ukraine, a senior Ukrainian adviser said on Thursday.

Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to President Volodymyr Zelenskiy's office, said Ukraine welcomed the fact that Biden had signalled that there would be a coordinated Western response in the event of Russia making a move on Ukraine.

"It is definitely not worth evaluating the words spoken the day before as something separate from the integral policy of the American administration," Podolyak wrote in a WhatsApp message to Reuters.

Biden predicted on Wednesday that Russia will make a move on Ukraine, saying Russia would pay dearly for a full-scale invasion but suggesting there could be a lower cost for a "minor incursion."

Biden's comments at a White House news conference injected more uncertainty into how the West would respond should Russian President Vladimir Putin order an attack on Ukraine, prompting the White House later to seek to clarify what Biden meant.

Russian officials have denied planning an attack, but the Kremlin has massed troops near Ukraine's borders, a buildup the West says could be preparation for a war to prevent Ukraine from ever joining the NATO security alliance.

"What was important for Ukrainian society to hear? The fact that Western states have a common understanding that any negative scenario in relation to Ukraine or in general in Europe will receive a coordinated, sufficient and sensitive response," Podolyak said.

"At the same time, it is important to understand that diplomatic efforts at various levels continue, and de-escalation steps are now the main goal of these efforts."

Biden's top diplomat. Antony Blinken. travelled to Kyiv in a show of support for Ukraine this week. He flew to Berlin for more talks on Thursday and is due to meet Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Geneva on Friday.

(Writing by Matthias Williams, Editing by Timothy Heritage)

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