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Ukrainian foreign minister smacks down suggestion that Russian incursion is 'minor': 'Invasion is an invasion'

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Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba (CAROLYN KASTER/POOL/AFP via Getty Image)

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba rebuffed any attempt to soften language of Russia's invasion into eastern Ukrainian provinces.

What is the background?

After Russian President Vladimir Putin recognized the independence of Donetsk and Luhansk — two provinces in eastern Ukraine — and ordered Russian "peacekeeping" troops into those regions, the Biden administration initially refused to describe the incursion as an "invasion."

According to the Washington Post, the Biden administration on Monday wrestled over whether Russian troops entering Ukrainian provinces constituted an "invasion." One administration official even reportedly said the development was not an "invasion" because the territories have been disputed and not without some Russian troops, at least in part, since 2014.

President Joe Biden later described Russia's actions as an "invasion" worthy of the swift response he promised last month, which meant imposing harsh economic sanctions meant to deter Putin from further action.

What did Kuleba say?

During a joint press conference with Secretary of State Antony Blinken, the Ukrainian foreign minister made it clear that Russia's actions could only be described as an "invasion."

Kuleba's remarks came in response to a question from Fox News reporter Ben Hall, who observed that "there is a suggestion that what we’ve seen so far is a minor invasion," a reference to the Biden administration's initially soft response and potentially Biden's reference last month to a "minor incursion."

"First, there is no such thing as minor, middle, or major invasion. Invasion is an invasion," Kuleba said.

LIVE: Secretary of State Blinken, Ukraine Foreign Minister Kuleba hold a press conference youtu.be

Kuleba then addressed sanctions the Biden administration enacted on Donetsk and Luhansk, criticizing the move, considering that Kyiv says each region remains part of Ukraine.

"I can say frankly that yesterday (Monday), when we learned about the first executive order to impose sanctions on — related to economic activities with Donetsk and Luhansk — we were puzzled, because we saw how the side that sought recognition from Russia is being punished, but we didn’t see how Russia, who granted its recognition, is punished," Kuleba said.

However, Kuleba also praised Biden for action taken on Tuesday with new sanctions against Russia. Kuleba said that Ukraine hopes Biden issues more sanctions as Russia aggression continues.

"We do appreciate today’s — the sanctions which were announced today. They target Russia. They’re very specific. They are painful," Kuleba said. "And this strategy of imposing sanctions by waves, if I may put it this way, is something that can work if it continues in a sustainable way."

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