Ukraine: Administration Avoids the Term ‘Invasion’; 'A Continuation,' Obama Says

By Patrick Goodenough | August 29, 2014 | 4:31 AM EDT

President Barack Obama answers reporters' questions in the White House briefing room on Thursday, Aug. 28, 2014. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

( - Ukraine’s U.N. envoy Oleksandr Pavlichenko says Russia’s military action -- sending tanks and troops across the border -- amounted to an “invasion,” although the Obama administration has not used that term.

“Do you consider today's escalation in Ukraine an invasion?” President Obama was asked during a press conference on Thursday.

“I consider the actions that we’ve seen in the last week a continuation of what's been taking place for months now,” he replied.

At the State Department, a reporter observed that spokeswoman Jen Psaki had referred to Russia’s “direct intervention” and “incursion,” and asked her, “Why haven’t you referred to it as an invasion?”

“I think our focus is more on what Russia is doing, what we’re going to do about it than what we’re calling it,” she said, adding that “regardless of what it’s called, Russia’s actions need to stop.”

Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin did not deny Russian troops were inside Ukraine but called them “volunteers.”

He accused Kiev of “conducting war against its own people” with the support of outside countries, and said he wanted to “send a message to Washington: Stop interfering in the internal affairs of sovereign states. Stop trying to undermine a regime that you don’t like. Restrain your geopolitical ambition.”

Since Ukrainian authorities last spring launched an attempt to rout pro-Russian separatists who had taken up arms against the government and seized territory, more than 2,200 people have been killed, according to U.N. figures.

Ukraine and the West accuse Russia of providing support in the shape of personnel and weaponry, including missile systems that have shot down Ukrainian military planes. The rebels are also accused of shooting down Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 on July 17, killing all 298 people on board.

This Aug. 23, 2014 satellite image made by DigitalGlobe and annotated by NATO shows what the military alliance says are Russian self-propelled artillery units near Krasnodon, Ukraine, inside territory controlled by Russian separatists. (AP Photo/NATO, DigitalGlobe)

In recent days, Russian involvement has increased significantly. NATO said Thursday that more than 1,000 Russian troops were now in the country, and it released satellite imagery purporting to show Russian armored personnel vehicles supported by artillery on Ukrainian soil.

“Over the past two weeks we have noted a significant escalation in both the level and sophistication of Russia’s military interference in Ukraine,” said NATO’s Brig. Gen. Nico Tak.

“The satellite images released today provide additional evidence that Russian combat soldiers, equipped with sophisticated heavy weaponry, are operating inside Ukraine’s sovereign territory.”

(Russia’s defense ministry dismissed the imagery as “ridiculous.”)

At the Security Council meeting, British ambassador Mark Lyall Grant said “Russia can no longer pretend that it is not a direct party to this conflict. Indeed this conflict would no longer exist without direct Russian military involvement in support of the separatists.”

Also See:

U.S. Must ‘Make Russia Listen,’ Ambassador Says; But Aid Still Limited to ‘Nonlethal’

Patrick Goodenough
Patrick Goodenough
Spencer Journalism Fellow