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The Wall Street Journal: Ukraine increasingly concerned that Russia’s playbook might call for a series of smaller-scale attacks

KYIV, Ukraine — Russia wants to destabilize Ukraine using a variety of attacks, Ukrainian officials said, pushing back against a suggestion from President Biden that the U.S. and its allies would respond differently to a small-scale incursion than a full-on invasion.

“‘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.’”

— Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba of Ukraine

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba on Thursday responded to Biden’s comment suggesting that Western nations weren’t in tandem on how to respond to Russian President Vladimir Putin in the event of a “minor incursion” on Ukraine. His statement was later clarified by the White House.

Context: Ukraine’s foreign minister expresses ‘no doubt’ about Biden commitment despite remark on prospective ‘minor incursion’ by Russia

Also see: Biden says Russian move across Ukraine border would be ‘invasion,’ walking back ‘minor incursion’ comment

From the archives (January 2021): Biden breaks with Trump’s solicitous tone toward Putin in first bilateral call with Russian president

“Speaking of minor and full incursions or full invasion, you cannot be half-aggressive. You’re either aggressive or you’re not aggressive,” Kuleba said. “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.”

Ukraine, already unnerved by the presence of almost 100,000 Russian troops near its borders, was shaken by the comments from Biden and French President Emmanuel Macron Wednesday that raised questions about the West’s unity and conviction in helping the country.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky went on Twitter Thursday to “remind the great powers that there are no minor incursions and small nations. Just as there are no minor casualties and little grief from the loss of loved ones.”

Biden, speaking at a White House event Thursday, didn’t directly address the Ukrainian criticism but said he has been very clear with Putin about an invasion.

President Biden said on Wednesday that the U.S. is ready to unleash sanctions against Russia if President Vladimir Putin makes a move against Ukraine. Biden also laid out a possible diplomatic resolution. Photo: Susan Walsh/Associated Press

An expanded version of this report appears at WSJ.com.

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