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Biden proposes meeting Putin 'in a third country' amid Ukraine tensions

Biden emphasized during Tuesday's call Washington's “unwavering commitment” to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Joe Biden,Vladimir Putin
Then-Vice President Joe Biden shakes hands with then-Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin in Moscow, on March 10, 2011.Alexander Zemlianichenko / AP file

President Joe Biden suggested meeting Russian President Vladimir Putin “in a third country” in the coming months, in a call Tuesday to discuss issues facing the United States and Russia amid growing tensions in Ukraine, the White House said.

The official readout of the phone conversation provided by the White House said Biden reaffirmed his goal of building “a stable and predictable relationship with Russia, consistent with U.S. interests” when he suggested the meeting.

In its own readout of the call, the Kremlin confirmed that Biden has asked to hold a high-level meeting “in the foreseeable future," without elaborating on when or where the two leaders could meet. It also gave no indication of how the Russian leader had responded to that suggestion.

The two presidents held their first phone call in January amid tensions over the arrest of the Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny.

Since then, the already rocky relationship between Washington and Moscow has soured even more after Biden confirmed in a television interview last month that he had called Putin a “killer.” Russia recalled its ambassador to the U.S. in light of Biden's remarks, while Putin said Biden’s jab reflected America's troubled past.

Tuesday's call comes as Ukraine, an Eastern European ally of the U.S., has been raising the alarm about possible military aggression by Russia.

Kyiv has accused Russia of a large military build-up in Crimea and on its borders, the biggest since the outbreak of a pro-Russian insurgency in the eastern Donbass region in 2014.

America's Western allies and NATO have condemned Russia’s actions, but the Kremlin insists that it moves its forces around as it sees fit, including for defensive purposes.

Biden emphasized during Tuesday's call Washington's “unwavering commitment” to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, the White House said, voicing his concern over “the sudden Russian military build-up" and called on it to de-escalate tensions.

Earlier Tuesday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, also affirming U.S. support for Ukraine.

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The Russian state news agency Tass quoted Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu as saying that NATO was planning to deploy 40,000 troops and 15,000 pieces of military equipment close to Russian territory.

Russia on Tuesday also called the U.S. an “adversary” and told U.S. warships to stay away from Crimea, which is strategically located on the Black Sea and is increasingly patrolled by NATO allies.

In its own readout of the phone call between the two leaders, the Kremlin said Putin emphasized a political solution to the situation in Ukraine in accordance with the Minsk agreements, designed to bring peace to eastern Ukraine, in what it called “an internal Ukrainian crisis.”

Moscow denies it is part of the conflict in eastern Ukraine.

The Kremlin said Biden and Putin also discussed arms control, Iran’s nuclear program, Afghanistan and climate change.

Sally Bronston contributed.