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Biden, Putin to hold video call next week as tensions grow over Ukraine

Biden will "underscore U.S. concerns with Russian military activities on the border with Ukraine" during their call, the White House said.
Image: Joe Biden, Vladimir, Putin
President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin, arrive to meet at the 'Villa la Grange', on June 16, 2021, in Geneva, Switzerland.Patrick Semansky / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden will meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin in a video call on Tuesday as tensions between the two nations grow over Russia’s military buildup on the Ukrainian border.

"The leaders will discuss a range of topics in the U.S.-Russia relationship, including strategic stability, cyber, and regional issues," White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement on Saturday.

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," Psaki said.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov confirmed plans for the conversation to Russia’s state news agency RIA Novosti and said it will take place Tuesday evening. “The presidents will decide themselves” how long their talk will last, he said earlier Saturday.

Russia has deployed more than 90,000 combat troops along Ukraine's border but has publicly denied any aggressive plans toward Ukraine. Russia said it is only responding to what it has characterized as provocative actions by Ukraine and NATO countries.

Asked on Friday evening to respond to reports that Russia was considering invading Ukraine next year, Biden told reporters that he expected to have a “long discussion with Putin.”

The Kremlin said Putin plans to push Biden during their call to guarantee that Ukraine would not be admitted into NATO.

Asked about Russia’s demand, Biden told reporters Friday: “I don’t accept anyone’s red line.”

U.S. officials and former American diplomats say while the Russian president is clearly laying the groundwork for a possible invasion, Ukraine’s military is better armed and prepared today than in the past, and that sanctions threatened by the West would do serious damage to the Russian economy.

Biden told reporters Friday that he was putting together a “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 may do.” Biden did not specify what those plans included.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Thursday, told reporters the U.S. should “prepare for all contingencies while working to see to it that Russia reverses course.” The U.S. could respond with “high impact” sanctions,” he said.

Psaki said Friday that a call between the two leaders would present an opportunity to “discuss our serious concerns about the bellicose rhetoric about the military buildup that we’re seeing on the border of Ukraine.”

U.S.-Russia relations have been rocky since Biden took office.

His administration has imposed sanctions against Russian targets and called out Putin for the Kremlin’s interference in U.S. elections, cyberactivity against American companies and the treatment of opposition figure Alexei Navalny, who was poisoned last year and later imprisoned.

Biden and Putin last met in-person in Geneva, Switzerland in June.