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‘There is no friction’: Ukraine’s ambassador downplays disagreements with U.S.

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Ukraine’s ambassador to the United States on Sunday insisted that her government was not “downplaying the risk” of a Russian invasion despite recent tensions between Kyiv and Washington over the imminent nature of the threat.

In an interview on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” Oksana Markarova, the Ukrainian envoy, said Ukraine and the United States “actually see the situation the same way, and we see the build-up, and we also know what Russia is capable of because they have attacked us already.”

“At the same time,” Markarova added, “in order to defend our country, we cannot afford to panic. We have to get ready. All of us — not only our military, our very capable military and veterans — but also all civilians. So we know and we see what’s going on.”

Markarova’s call for calm echoed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s remarks at a news conference last Friday, when Zelensky argued that he had a better understanding of “what is going on in my country” than Western media and U.S. officials.

Ukrainian officials recently have broken with U.S. officials’ assessment of a potential Russian invasion as imminent, warning that such statements have undermined Ukrianians’ faith in their government and stoked economic panic across the Eastern European nation. But the Biden administration has not backed away from the dire rhetoric.

“We have said since last week that we have seen preparations and build-up at the border and that an invasion could come at any time,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said at a news briefing last Thursday, adding: “Our assessment has not changed since that point.”

Gen. Mark Milley, chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said at a news briefing last Friday that the roughly 100,000 Russian troops along Ukraine’s border are “larger in scale and scope and the massing of forces than anything we have seen in recent memory.”

“I think you’d have to go back quite a while into the Cold War days to see something of this magnitude,” Milley said of the Russia-Ukraine crisis, describing the consequences of a possible conflict as “horrific” and “terrible.”

Still, Markarova stressed on Sunday that “there is no friction” between Ukraine and the United States amid the escalating security situation. “We are open and candid, and we are discussing it with our partners here. Again, we just cannot afford to panic. So we’re preparing for any options,” she said.

Senate Foreign Relations Chair Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) said in an interview on CNN’s “State of the Union” that Zelensky “is in a difficult position” — both “preparing for the possibility of invasion,” as well as seeking “to create a semblance of calm as it relates to his economy.”

Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, also said in an interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that Zelensky “obviously is trying to maintain his economic growth … and keep the country from panicking.”

“But we’re together,” Portman said of the U.S.-Ukraine relationship. “That’s what’s important as to Russia and what Russia is doing.”

Portman also viewed the security situation as solidifying the United States’ other international relationships.

“One thing [Russian President] Vladimir Putin has done successfully,” Portman said, “is he has strengthened the transatlantic alliance and its countries around the world who are looking at this and saying, ‘We cannot let this stand. We cannot let this happen.’”

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