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Ukraine: Biden and Putin speak out at critical moment
In recent months, Russia has erected supply lines, including medical units and fuel, that could support a protracted conflict if Moscow chooses to invade, two sources familiar with the latest estimates told CNN. intelligence. And recent findings by US intelligence services estimate that Russia could launch a military offensive in Ukraine in a matter of months, as it accumulates up to 175,000 troops along the border.

The meeting began shortly after 10 a.m. ET, according to the White House.

In what was to be one of the most crucial foreign policy meetings of Biden’s still young presidency, the president is expected to explain to Putin what sanctions and other steps the United States could take if the Russian president decides to invade the country. ‘Ukraine. The US intelligence community believes Putin still has not decided to launch a military offensive against Ukraine, and Biden plans to tell Putin that the US is ready to take “substantial economic countermeasures” to inflict “significant and serious economic damage to the Russian economy” if Putin goes ahead with a military escalation in Ukraine, a senior administration official told reporters on Monday.

According to an overview of the White House call, “The leaders will discuss a range of topics in US-Russian relations, including strategic stability, cybersecurity, and regional issues. President Biden will highlight the concerns of the states. United States regarding Russian military activities on the border with Ukraine and reaffirming United States support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine. “

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Monday that talks between Biden and Putin would take place via a secure “behind closed door” video link.

“There will be no live broadcast. I think we will show the very beginning of the meeting. The very beginning will be broadcast, the whole meeting will be held in camera,” he said, according to the Russian state news agency Tass.

“We believe it will be a sufficiently large and long-lasting videoconference via a secure communication channel. We expect it to be long,” Peskov added.

The two leaders attended a summit in Geneva last June. Their last known public call was in July.

A day before the US-Russian call, the Pentagon confirmed that it continued to observe “additional military capability” from Russian forces along the country’s border with Ukraine.

“What we continue to see, and what we continue to see, are additional capabilities that President Putin continues to add, additional military capabilities in the western part of his country and around Ukraine,” he said. Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said.

In recent days, US officials have questioned whether to impose far-reaching sanctions on Russia in a bid to deter Putin from launching an invasion in Ukraine.

They include further actions against members of Putin’s inner circle and against Russian energy producers, and a potential “nuclear option” – to disconnect Russia from the international payments system SWIFT used by banks around the world.

Officials said final decisions had not been made on whether and when to apply the new sanctions, and said the Biden administration was currently in talks with European partners – many of whom have connections. closer economic relations with Russia – in the hope of coordinating action.

The administration is also studying options for a potential evacuation of U.S. citizens from Ukraine if Russia invades the country and creates a dire security situation, half a dozen sources told CNN.

Contingency planning is led by the Pentagon, the sources said, and comes as the administration briefs Congress on the United States’ preparedness. In a “grim” briefing to senators by senior State Department official Victoria Nuland on Monday evening, Nuland described the tough sanctions package prepared by the administration in response to a potential Russian attack, but acknowledged that United States to deter an invasion is quite limited, said a person familiar with the briefing.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki told Monday’s press conference that Biden “will be clear – as we have said publicly – that we are preparing a round of economic sanctions or economic options that could have a negative impact on the Russian economy. ”

Putin indicated last week that he would call for specific agreements that would exclude any further NATO expansion to the east and the deployment of its weapons near Russia’s borders. If Putin tells Biden on Tuesday that NATO should not admit Ukraine as a member – as it should – Biden is unlikely to accede to the request.

Biden held a call with European allies on Monday evening to discuss “their common concern over the strengthening of the Russian military on Ukraine’s borders and Russia’s increasingly harsh rhetoric,” according to a statement. White House.

Leaders of the call – which included French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson – called on Russia to ease tensions and expressed support for the sovereignty of Ukraine. The White House statement said the leaders “will remain in close contact, including in consultation with NATO allies and EU partners, on a coordinated and comprehensive approach.”

A senior administration official said this week that the United States has engaged in “intensive discussions with our European partners on what we would do collectively in the event of a major Russian military escalation.”

Secretary of State Antony Blinken held talks with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Monday ahead of the U.S.-Russia appeal. A senior administration official also said Blinken would speak to Zelensky ahead of this meeting, and Biden would speak with the Ukrainian leader “within days of the call” and “consult closely” with him.

CNN’s Kevin Liptak, Natasha Bertrand, Ellie Kaufman, Jennifer Hansler, Zahra Ullah, Anna Chernova, and Jim Sciutto contributed to this report.


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