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Biden, Putin Set Video Call For Next Week To Discuss Ukraine, Other Issues

By RFE/RL December 04, 2021

U.S. President Joe Biden and Russian leader Vladimir Putin will hold a secure video call on December 7 to discuss Ukraine and other topics, the White House and Kremlin have confirmed.

The virtual meeting comes as Washington and Kyiv say Moscow has amassed tens of thousands of troops along with tanks and heavy weaponry in western Russia and could be planning an offensive as early as January.

"President Biden will underscore U.S. concerns with Russian military activities on the border with Ukraine and reaffirm the United States' support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine," the White House said on December 4.

The two leaders will also discuss a range of topics, including strategic nuclear weapons, cyber-attacks, and regional issues, the White House said.

Earlier this week, Putin reiterated Russia had "red lines" about any prospective NATO membership for Ukraine and raised concerns about Western weapons supplies to Kyiv and military drills in the Black Sea.

The Kremlin said that the Russian leader would seek binding guarantees precluding NATO's expansion to Ukraine during the call with Biden.

Washington has rejected Russia's ultimatums.

"I don't accept anyone's red line," Biden told reporters on December 3.

"What I am doing is putting together what I believe to be the most comprehensive and meaningful set of initiatives to make it very, very difficult for Mr. Putin to go ahead and do what people are worried he's going to do," Biden said.

U.S. officials have said they are unclear of Russia's motives and whether Putin has made the political-military decision to stage an offensive against Ukraine.

Russia forcefully seized Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula in 2014 and is backing separatists in eastern Ukraine in an ongoing conflict that has claimed more than 13,200 lives.

A report in the Washington Post on December 3, citing a U.S. official and an unclassified intelligence document, said Russia could be planning a multi-front offensive involving up to 175,000 troops as soon as early next year.

Earlier on December 3, Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov told lawmakers that the country's intelligence had assessed that the "likelihood of large-scale escalation by Russia exists."

"The most likely time to reach readiness for escalation will be the end of January," Reznikov said.

Ukraine has estimated around 95,000 Russian troops are currently near its borders.

Biden is also expected to speak with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in the coming week, according to Ukrainian officials.

Moscow blames Ukraine and its Western backers for fanning recent tensions, pointing to what it says is a similar Ukrainian military buildup and a failure by Kyiv to meet its commitments under the Minsk agreements aimed at putting an end to the conflict in eastern Ukraine.

Some analysts say Russia is saber-rattling to extract concessions from the United States and its allies over issues such as NATO's eastward expansion, weapons shipments to Ukraine, and the stalled Minsk agreements.

Biden and Putin have had one face-to-face meeting since the U.S. president took office in January, sitting down for talks in Geneva last June. They last talked by phone in July.

During those talks, Biden pressed Putin to rein in ransomware and cyber-crime attacks emanating from Russian soil. Ransomware attacks have continued since then.

With reporting by Reuters, Interfax, and RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service

Source: https://www.rferl.org/a/biden-putin -ukraine-call/31593846.html

Copyright (c) 2021. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.



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