Biden and Putin speak on Thursday in the midst of Ukraine’s tensions

WASHINGTON / REHOBOTH BEACH, Del., Dec. 29 (Reuters) – US President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin speak on Thursday, the White House said as Washington draws up a joint response to Russia’s military build-up on the border with Ukraine with European allies.

The two leaders will discuss a range of topics, including upcoming security negotiations between the countries and a tense situation in Europe, White House National Security Council spokeswoman Emily Horne said in a statement Wednesday.

The call will take place at 3:30 p.m. ET (2030 GMT), the White House said.

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Horne said Biden had spoken to leaders across Europe about the situation at the border with Ukraine, while officials in the Biden administration were in contact with NATO, the European Union and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

Moscow has alerted the West by gathering tens of thousands of troops near Ukraine in the past two months, following its seizure of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula in 2014 and its support for separatists fighting Kyiv troops in eastern Ukraine.

Russia refuses to plan to attack Ukraine, saying it has the right to move its troops on its own soil as it pleases.

Moscow, concerned about what it says is the West’s rearmament of Ukraine, has said it wants legally binding guarantees that NATO will not expand further east and that certain offensive weapons will not be deployed to Ukraine or other neighboring countries.

U.S. concerns have not ebbed in recent weeks, according to a senior Biden administration official. Other US officials said that despite a report over the weekend that Russia would withdraw about 10,000 troops from its border with Ukraine, they had seen little evidence to support it so far.

“We are in a moment of crisis and have now been getting the Russian build-up for a few weeks and it will require a high level of commitment to address this and find a way to deescalation,” said one of the officials. , who refused to be named.

This person said that Putin asked for the call with Biden.

US President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin shake hands during US-Russia summit at Villa La Grange in Geneva, Switzerland, June 16, 2021. REUTERS / Denis Balibouse / Pool

“When President Biden has asked to speak with President Putin during 2021, President Putin has said: Yes, let’s talk. And when President Putin says, I’m interested in touching the base and getting a phone call, President Biden says yes. . “

Biden is likely to repeat during the call that the United States will take swift economic action against Russia in the event of an invasion. They will also strengthen the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in such a case.

But the US president has pushed for direct diplomacy as an alternative.

The Biden administration has been in deep talks with Ukraine as well as a host of NATO allies, including those bordering Russia, according to White House spokesman Horne.

Biden is likely to speak with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy soon, another official said. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with the Ukrainian leader on Wednesday, expressing “unwavering support for Ukraine’s independence,” according to a spokesman.

JSTARS, a type of U.S. military spy plane, operated in Ukrainian airspace for the first time earlier in the week, although different types of surveillance aircraft are common in the region, officials said.

Biden said on Tuesday “we will see” when asked if he would meet with Putin on January 10, the same day that US and Russian officials are due to hold security talks. But Biden is not expected to attend these talks or meet with Putin that day, an official said.

Russia and NATO are also set to hold talks on January 12 with a broader meeting with Moscow, Washington and other European countries scheduled for January 13.

Putin has compared the current tensions with the Cuba crisis from the Cold War era in 1962. Washington considers some of his demands, including restrictions on NATO enlargement, as non-starters.

Talks between Putin and Biden are also likely to touch on other issues, including the ongoing talks with Iran on its nuclear program, a US official said.

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Further reporting by Vladimir Soldatkin in Moscow, Susan Heavey and Idrees Ali in Washington and Costas Pitas in Los Angeles; Edited by Chris Gallagher and Alistair Bell

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