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Ukrainian official invites DeSantis to visit after Florida governor calls war a 'territorial dispute'

Nikolenko invited DeSantis to Ukraine "to get a deeper understanding of Russia’s full-scale invasion and the threats it poses to US interests."

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis' controversial comments about Russia's war in Ukraine this week caught the attention of leaders across the world, including one Ukrainian official looking to discredit the governor's stance.

In a statement to Fox News host Tucker Carlson, DeSantis said protecting Ukraine was not a "vital national interest" and reduced the war to a "territorial dispute."

Oleg Nikolenko, a spokesperson for the Ukrainian government, responded by inviting the Florida governor to his country "to get a deeper understanding of Russia’s full-scale invasion and the threats it poses to US interests."

On Monday, conservative television host Tucker Carlson explained that DeSantis' comments were part of a Ukraine-focused questionnaire sent to "every potential 2024 GOP presidential candidate." 

In addition to reading some of the responses on his primetime show, Carlson shared the potential candidates' full statements in a series of tweets.

“While the U.S. has many vital national interests – securing our borders, addressing the crisis of readiness within our military, achieving energy security and independence, and checking the economic, cultural, and military power of the Chinese Communist Party – becoming further entangled in a territorial dispute between Ukraine and Russia is not one of them," DeSantis' statement read, in part.

DeSantis' response not only differs from common GOP rhetoric that President Joe Biden is not doing enough to support Ukraine against Russia's attacks, but it also contradicts statements he made back in 2015 after Russia zeroed in on Ukraine with its invasion and subsequent annexation of Crimea. 

“We in the Congress have been urging the president, I’ve been, to provide arms to Ukraine. They want to fight their good fight. They’re not asking us to fight it for them. And the president has steadfastly refused. And I think that that’s a mistake,” DeSantis told conservative talk radio host Bill Bennett in 2015, according to CNN. 

“I think that when someone like Putin sees Obama being indecisive, I think that whets his appetite to create more trouble in the area. And I think if we were to arm the Ukrainians, I think that would send a strong signal to him that he shouldn’t be going any further,” he added.

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