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Biden, Putin to discuss next week as tensions rise over Ukraine


Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy addresses lawmakers in Kiev, Ukraine, Wednesday, December 1, 2021. Ukraine marks the 30th anniversary of the independence referendum. (AP Photo / Efrem Lukatsky)


President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin will meet by phone on Tuesday as tensions between the United States and Russia escalate over a build-up of Russian troops on the Ukrainian border seen as a sign of a potential invasion.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov confirmed plans for the long-awaited appeal on Saturday and said it would take place in the evening.

Russia is more adamant than ever that the United States guarantees that Ukraine will not be admitted into the NATO military alliance. U.S. intelligence officials, meanwhile, determined that Russia had assembled around 70,000 troops near its border with Ukraine and had started planning for a possible invasion as early as early next year, according to an official with the Biden administration which was not authorized to discuss this discovery publicly. and spoke on condition of anonymity.

The risks for Putin to carry out such an invasion would be enormous.

U.S. officials and former U.S. diplomats say that while the Russian president is clearly laying the groundwork for a possible invasion, the Ukrainian military is better armed and prepared today than in the past, and that sanctions threatened by the West would cause serious damage to the Russian economy.

“What I’m doing is putting in place what I think I am, will be, the most comprehensive and meaningful set of initiatives to make it very, very difficult for Mr. Putin to move forward. and do what people fear he will do, ”Biden said Friday.

Ukrainian officials have said Russia could invade next month. Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov said the number of Russian troops near Ukraine and in Russia annexed Crimea is estimated at 94,300, and warned that a “large-scale escalation” is possible in January.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy recently accused a group of Russians and Ukrainians of attempting a coup in his country and that the plotters had tried to get help from the richest man in Ukraine , Rinat Akhmetov.

Russia and Akhmetov have denied that a plot is underway, but the Russians have recently become more explicit in their warnings to Ukraine and the United States.

Biden is also expected to speak with Zelenskyy in the coming week, according to a person close to the Ukrainian leader. This person was not authorized to comment publicly before the call was announced and spoke on condition of anonymity.

The Kremlin said on Friday that Putin, in his call with Biden, would ask for binding guarantees preventing NATO expansion in Ukraine. Biden tried to avoid the request in reporters’ comments Friday before leaving for a weekend at Camp David.

“I don’t accept anyone’s red line,” Biden said.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said on Friday that the administration would coordinate with European allies if it goes ahead with the sanctions. She alluded to Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea, the Black Sea peninsula that had been under Ukraine’s control since 1954.

“We know what President Putin has done in the past,” Psaki said. “We see that he is building the capacity to act as quickly as possible.”

US-Russian relations have been difficult since Biden took office.

His administration has imposed sanctions on Russian targets and called on Putin for the Kremlin’s interference in the US elections, cyber activity against US businesses and the treatment of opposition figure Alexei Navalny, who was poisoned the last year and then jailed.

When Putin and Biden met in Geneva in June, Biden warned that if Russia crossed certain red lines – including attacking major US infrastructure – his administration would react and “the consequences would be devastating.”