Biden to offer Putin ‘diplomatic channel’ on Ukraine in new crisis appeal

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US President Joe Biden and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin will speak on Thursday as part of a latest effort to defuse tensions surrounding Moscow’s military build-up on the border with Ukraine.

It will be the second phone call in less than a month between the two leaders, Biden having warned in early December Putin of the “serious consequences” of an invasion of Russian troops.

Biden, who is at his home in Delaware for the New Year’s break, will stress that Washington is seeking a “diplomatic route” out of the crisis, a senior administration official told reporters.

“But we are also ready to react if Russia advances with a new invasion of Ukraine,” Biden will tell Putin, the official said, adding that Washington remains “gravely concerned” about the military build-up and wants to see Russian forces to recover. “To their usual training areas”.

The call is expected to begin at 3:30 p.m. (8:30 p.m. GMT) in Washington, the White House said. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov confirmed the call, saying it would take place Thursday evening Russian time.

US support for Ukraine

Russia has sent tens of thousands of troops to the border with Ukraine, Western officials fear a repeat of 2014, when Moscow captured the Crimean peninsula and a pro-Russian insurgency erupted. in eastern Ukraine, killing more than 13,000.

In a potential measure to defuse tensions, senior US and Russian officials plan to meet on January 10 in Geneva.

The meeting comes after Russia offered the United States proposals that included calls not to expand NATO eastward or establish bases in former Soviet republics.

The United States has called some of the Russian positions a non-starting point, but said it is willing to speak up and will raise its own concerns as well.

The dialogue began when Putin and Biden met in Geneva in June. American officials at the time were at least seeking greater predictability in strained relations with Russia – hopes that have been dashed by the latest troop movements.

The administration official made it clear that there were no plans for another in-person summit.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has promised that Moscow will take a “hard line” in the Geneva talks to defend its interests.

I reiterated US full support for Ukraine during my appeal with President of Ukraine @ZelenskyyUa. We will continue to consult closely with Ukraine, @NATO allies and our partners in our diplomatic efforts to deter further Russian aggression.

– Secretary of State Antony Blinken (@SecBlinken) December 29, 2021 Ahead of the US-Russia talks, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke by phone with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Wednesday.

“I was assured of full US support for Ukraine to counter Russian aggression,” Zelensky tweeted afterward.

Blinken also spoke separately with his British, French and German counterparts on “coordination to deter any further Russian aggression against Ukraine,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said.

Western foreign ministers “affirmed the consensus among allies and partners to impose massive consequences and high costs on Russia for such actions,” Price said.

The Biden administration is committed to taking all measures in close collaboration with its European allies. After the Geneva talks, Russian delegates will meet with delegates from the NATO alliance ahead of a meeting of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, a key Cold War forum that brings together Moscow and the West .

(AFP)

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