Biden and Putin speak as Ukraine warnings mount

WASHINGTON/MOSCOW (Reuters) – U.S. President Joe Biden and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin will speak on Saturday as the United States and other Western countries warned that war in Ukraine could erupt at any moment.

Washington Command Some embassy staff are leaving Ukraine on Saturday, after this week it called on citizens to leave the country as soon as possible. Read more

A White House official said Putin requested the phone call between the two leaders to take place on Monday, but Biden wanted it to happen as soon as Washington detailed increasingly vivid accounts of a possible attack on Ukraine.

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On Saturday, Australia, New Zealand, Germany and the Netherlands joined countries urging their citizens to do so Left Ukraine. Washington said on Friday that a Russian invasion, including a possible air attack, could happen at any time.

Moscow has repeatedly opposed Washington’s version of events, saying it has massed more than 100,000 troops near the Ukrainian border to maintain its security against aggression by NATO allies.

Meanwhile, Russia, which accused Western countries of spreading lies, said on Saturday that it had decided to “improve” the number of its diplomatic staff in Ukraine, fearing “provocations” by Kiev or another party.

Moscow did not say whether this meant reducing staff, but said the embassy and consulates in Ukraine continued to perform their main functions.

US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said Washington would impose swift economic sanctions if Moscow invaded.

“I still hope that he will not choose the path of renewed aggression and will choose the path of diplomacy and dialogue,” Blinken told reporters after a meeting with Pacific leaders in Fiji. “But if he doesn’t, we prepared. “

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Later, in a telephone conversation with Blinkin, the Russian Foreign Ministry said that Russia’s top diplomat, Sergei Lavrov, accused the United States and its allies of launching a “propaganda campaign” about Russia’s aggression against Ukraine.

On Saturday, German Foreign Minister Annalina Barbock said that the crisis between Russia and Ukraine is escalating, but Germany is doing its best to find a diplomatic solution.

Security guarantees

Putin, vying for influence in post-Cold War Europe, is seeking security guarantees from Biden to prevent Kiev’s entry into NATO and the deployment of missiles near Russia’s borders.

Washington views many of the proposals as not a start, but it has prompted the Kremlin to discuss them jointly with Washington and its European allies.

However, Biden, who will join the weekend call from the presidential retreat in Camp David, Maryland, has long believed that one-on-one engagement with Putin may be the best chance for a solution.

Two calls in December between Biden and Putin yielded no breakthroughs, but they did pave the way for diplomacy between their aides. The two leaders have not spoken since, and diplomats on both sides have struggled to find common ground.

Quartet talks in Berlin between Russia, Ukraine, Germany and France on Thursday made no progress.

Russia’s TASS news agency reported that Putin also planned to speak with French President Emmanuel Macron on Saturday.

gathering forces

Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, told reporters on Friday that US intelligence believed a quick attack on Kiev was possible and that Putin might order an invasion before the Winter Olympics in China ended on February 20. The order has been given.

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He said the Russians had amassed enough troops near the border to invade the country and that they might begin an aerial bombardment.

On Twitter, Russia’s deputy ambassador to the United Nations, Dmitry Polyansky, accused Washington of launching a “panic campaign”.

Ukrainian officials have tried to calm Washington’s assessment that an invasion may be imminent, and the State Department on Saturday urged citizens to remain calm.

Still, Washington plan to send Four US officials told Reuters that an additional 3,000 troops would be sent to Poland, Ukraine’s western neighbor, in the coming days to try to reassure NATO allies. They are in addition to 8,500 already on alert to deploy to Europe if necessary. Read more

Meanwhile, Russian forces assembled north, south and east Ukraine.

More than 30 ships of the Russian Black Sea Fleet have started training exercises near Crimea as part of a broader naval exercise, the RIA news agency reported on Saturday. Read more

Ahead of talks with Putin, Biden spoke about the crisis with the leaders of Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Poland and Romania, as well as the heads of NATO and the European Union. With tensions rising in recent weeks, Washington has sought to ensure that its allies would respond in unison if Russia did invade.

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Additional reporting by Trevor Honeycutt in Washington and Vladimir Soldatkin in Moscow Additional reporting by Humira Pamuk Writing by Trevor Honeycutt and Frances Kerry Editing by William Mallard and Lincoln Fest

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