Has Russia invaded Ukraine? A lot of clear questions, but not a lot of clear answers

A Ukrainian serviceman walks by a building which was hit by a large mortar shell in the frontline village of Krymske, Luhansk region, eastern Ukraine Credit: AP
  • ITV News US Correspondent Emma Murphy reports in Washington on President Joe Biden's next steps as the Ukraine crisis unfolds

When is an invasion not an invasion? Right now in Washington, that seems to be a trickier question than anyone expected.

For weeks the United States has led the way, insisting that Russia was on the verge of further invading Ukraine.

Just days ago President Joe Biden seemed very clear: “If any, any assembled Russian units move across the Ukrainian border, that’s an invasion.”

Yet when what looked very much like the highly-vaunted invasion seemed to get underway, came what looked very much like hesitation. As Russia announced “peacekeeping troops” were being sent into Donetsk and Luhansk, senior officials were briefing journalists.

One question came up over and over: “Does this constitute a further invasion?”

The question didn’t bring a definitive answer. After repeated requests for clarity, the closest anyone got was an admission that Russia already had troops in those areas. So not really.

On Monday evening, the White House would not be drawn on whether the latest events in Ukraine would be classified as a Russian invasion - that all changed in the last hour, explains Emma Murphy

It’s the kind of obfuscation that will have America’s allies feeling that old sense of disquiet.

The sanctions announced for this non-invasion invasion are limited. It’s a fine line but the pressure is now on the administration to be good to its word.

Even some of President Biden's most loyal confidants have gone public urging him that this is the moment to go in hard.

President Joe Biden has for weeks led the way saying Russia was on the verge of invading Ukraine. Credit: AP

He has a fine balance - go too fast and the deterrent effect is lost. Go too slowly and each incremental ratcheting up risks exposing the fault lines just below the surface of the united international front.

For weeks now the question has been whether this crisis really would end in war? Today there’s a new one to ponder.

When one country sends its troops uninvited into another what do you call it, if not an invasion?