Biden and Putin in talks amid fears of a Russian invasion of Ukraine
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The call between the US President, the Prime Minister and Nato allies France, Italy and Germany was due to follow Mr Biden’s talks with Russian leader Vladimir Putin earlier in the day. Mr Biden held a two-hour video call with President Putin as tens of thousands of Russian troops massed along Ukraine’s border.
“Greetings, Mr President,” Putin said at the start of the call, from his residence in Sochi, the Russian resort city on the Black Sea. Russian TV showed the two sharing a friendly greeting, but Mr Biden was expected to warn that Russia would face economic sanctions if it invades its neighbour. More than 90,000 Russian troops are believed to be near Ukraine’s borders.
Moscow denies it has plans to attack the former Soviet satellite state, but wants guarantees Ukraine will not try to seize areas captured by Russian-backed separatists in 2014. It has also warned the West not to cross “red lines” by adding Ukraine to Nato’s military alliance.
A large part of the recent Russian military build-up is in Crimea, which was annexed by Russia in 2014.
Troops are also gathering near Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region.
The White House said the five Nato leaders formed a joint strategy “to impose significant and severe harm on the Russian economy” should there be an invasion.
On Monday, Mr Johnson said the UK would “continue to use all the economic and diplomatic tools at its disposal to prevent Russian aggression against Ukraine”. Measures include curbs on Russian banks converting roubles into foreign currencies.
Foreign Office minister Vicky Ford told MPs any military incursion would be a “strategic mistake” and “the costs of an incursion would be catastrophically high”. She added: “We stand by Ukraine and we are considering an extension of purely defensive support to help Ukraine defend itself.
“Putin needs to de-escalate now and return to diplomatic channels.”
In a major speech today, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss is expected to warn Western nations they face a “battle for freedom” with Russia.
Ukraine’s defence minister Oleksiy Reznikov warned yesterday of a “really bloody massacre” if Russia invaded, saying: “Russian guys also will come back in the coffins.”
He added: “If I can advise President Biden, I would like him to articulate to Mr Putin that no red lines from the Kremlin side should be here.
“The red line is here in Ukraine and the civilised world will react without hesitation.”
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