On Wednesday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who had been skirting the issue for weeks, finally addressed his people via video about rumors of an imminent Russian invasion. With an estimated 100,000 Russian troops all but encircling his country, Zelensky assured his people that despite “bogeyman stories,” and media “sources of mass hysteria” promoting the notion “that war may start tomorrow,” the reality was that everything was “under control” and “going according to plan.”
“Take a deep breath. Calm down,” Zelensky told his countrymen. There was absolutely no reason to panic.
Hours later, however, President Biden sounded a very different tune about Russian President Vladimir Putin’s intentions, one that made Ukrainians anxious.
“My guess is he will move in. He has to do something,” Biden said at a White House press conference on Wednesday when asked if Russia would actually invade Ukraine. Biden’s comments sparked panic in the former Soviet republic.
It was “absolutely absurd,” Oleksiy Sorokin, political editor for the Kyiv Independent news site, told Yahoo News. “We followed Zelensky’s speech and we’re like, ‘OK, so this is the strategy now — don’t panic.’ And then two hours later, we get the president of the United States confirming that Russia will invade and the whole speech of Zelensky, his whole plan, just goes to pieces.”
But what really dropped jaws in Kyiv was Biden’s take on how NATO might respond to a Russian attack on Ukrainian soil.
“I think what you’re going to see is that Russia will be held accountable if it invades,” Biden said, adding, “It depends on what [Russia] does. It’s one thing if it’s a minor incursion and then we end up having a fight about what to do and not do, etc.”