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Subtlety has never been Wall Street’s strong suit, and when a dose of sarcasm crept into the high-stakes discourse Monday afternoon around tensions between Russia and Ukraine, it briefly proved more than traders could process.

Confusion reigned when media accounts of what appears to have been a tongue-in-cheek quip by Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelenskyy, deriding assumptions about Russia’s military intent, ignited a brief bout of ill-advised selling.

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