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lost in translation

White House has stopped describing Russian invasion as 'imminent,' following rhetoric gripes from Ukraine

The White House has backed off describing the possibility of a Russian invasion of Ukraine as "imminent," Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Wednesday, explaining that the word sends an unintended message, per CNN's Kevin Liptak.

The switch-up in language arrives after multiple reports that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and Ukrainian security officials wanted the U.S. to tone down its war rhetoric, fearful that officials' remarks were doing more harm than good. 

"When they start saying that tomorrow, you're going to have war, just take into consideration that the first thing we do not need in our country is panic," the head of Ukraine's security council told The New York Times last week. "Why? Because panic is the sister of failure."

Also, as Politico pointed out on Friday, there is no direct translation in Ukrainian for "imminent" — the Ukrainian word that most closely correlates is akin to "no matter what" or "inevitable." So though President Biden might have been trying to say "an invasion could happen any day now," Team Zelensky may have been hearing, "there will be an invasion no matter what."

On Wednesday, Psaki conceded that she had used the word once when discussing the standoff, but would no longer be using it going forward, CNN notes.