- Biden and Zelensky spoke by phone Thursday about the threat of Russia invading Ukraine.
- Biden told Zelensky that Russia may invade in February, the White House said.
- Zelensky told Biden to tone down his predictions as they were creating panic, a Ukrainian official told CNN.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told President Joe Biden to “calm down the messaging” about the threat of a Russian invasion because it was stirring panic, CNN reported, citing an unnamed Ukrainian official.
Biden and Zelensky spoke by phone Thursday amid rising tensions between Russia — which is amassing tens of thousands of troops at Ukraine’s border — Ukraine, the US, and NATO.
Biden told Zelensky on Thursday that a Russian invasion could happen as soon as February, when the ground freezes over, tweeted Emily Horne, White House National Security Council spokesperson.
However, Zelensky told Biden in the call that Ukraine did not agree with the US assessment, and that it was bringing panic that could later bring economic hardship to Ukraine, CNN reported, citing a senior Ukrainian official.
Zelensky also told Biden to “calm down the messaging,” CNN reported, citing the official.
The White House did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.
The official White House readout of Biden’s call did not mention Zelensky’s reported concern.
The official told CNN that the call “did not go well.” The White House told the network that characterization was false and that anonymous sources were “leaking falsehoods.”
The White House also disputed a claim by Alexander Marquardt, CNN’s senior national security correspondent, who tweeted Thursday that Biden told Zelensky during the call that Kyiv could be “sacked” by Russian forces.
Horne, the NSC spokesperson, tweeted: “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 & we have been warning about this for months. Reports of anything more or different than that are completely false.”
Biden said Tuesday that the US would personally sanction Putin should Russia invade Ukraine. Russia repeatedly denies that it is readying an invasion.
‘Don’t worry, sleep well’
Ukraine’s military leaders, meanwhile, have played down the threat of invasion.
“As of today, there are no grounds to believe [Russia will invade],” defense minister Oleksii Reznikov told parliament Tuesday, the Associated Press reported.
“Don’t worry, sleep well,” he said. “No need to have your bags packed.”
The US and UK have repeatedly warned of an imminent Russian invasion, though officials in Ukraine, France, and Germany appear less convinced.
The split suggests “a gap in assessments of Russia’s likely courses of action,” Keir Giles, a senior consulting fellow on the Russia and Eurasia program at Chatham House, previously told Insider.
“There is a history of the US trying to convince its European partners that the threat is imminent, based on the sources and intelligence it has, and they apparently do not,” he said.
The conversation between Biden and Zelensky came days after the US decision to tell families of US embassy personnel in Kyiv to leave the country.
On Wednesday, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken went one step further, urging Americans in Ukraine to leave.