Russia-Ukraine crisis: Biden-Putin talks fail to bring breakthrough | Vladimir Putin news

Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Joe Biden have discussed Russia’s military build-up, but the hour-long phone call ended with no breakthrough. The White House has insisted Moscow must face “quick and heavy costs” as it pursues its aggression, while the Kremlin has denounced the United States’ “summit hysteria” over the Ukraine conflict.

“If Russia mounts another invasion of Ukraine, the United States, along with our allies and partners, will respond decisively and impose swift and heavy costs on Russia,” Biden told Putin, according to a White House press release.

While the US stands ready to engage diplomatically, “we are equally prepared for other scenarios,” Biden said, as the two nations stare down one of the gravest crises in East-West relations since the Cold War.

The Kremlin said Putin told Biden that Washington had failed to address Russia’s key concerns and had not received a “substantive response” on critical elements, including NATO expansion and the deployment of offensive forces in Ukraine.

Washington and its allies have warned that the Russian military, which has massed 100,000 troops near Ukraine, could invade at any moment.

Putin has criticized Western claims of an imminent military threat, calling the idea “provocative speculation” that could lead to conflict in the former Soviet country, according to a Russian advert of a conversation with French President Emmanuel Macron.

The frenzy of telephone diplomacy

Earlier in the day, Putin spoke to his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron amid a frenzy of phone diplomacy that hasn’t appeared to ease tensions.

Macron’s office said “both expressed a desire to continue the dialogue” but, like Washington, reported no clear progress.

“There is no sign of any real breakthrough, although it is significant that the two leaders are still speaking,” said Al Jazeera’s Mike Hanna, reporting from Washington, DC.

Hanna said Biden and Macron are expected to speak later in the day.

Citing the growing threat of a Russian invasion, Washington and a number of European countries, as well as Israel, urged their citizens to leave Ukraine as soon as possible.

The UK and US also withdrew most of their remaining military advisers, while the US embassy ordered “most” of its Kiev staff to leave.

Dutch airline KLM announced that it is suspending commercial flights to Ukraine until further notice.

Russia reinforced the ominous tone on Saturday by withdrawing some of its diplomatic staff from Ukraine.

The Foreign Ministry in Moscow justified its decision with fears of “possible provocations by the Kiev regime”.

The prospect of fleeing Westerners prompted Kiev to appeal to its citizens to “keep calm”.

“Right now, panic is the people’s greatest enemy,” said Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy during a visit to troops stationed near Russia’s annexed Crimea peninsula.

Several thousand Ukrainians braved the winter cold to march through Kiev in a show of unity amid mounting fears of war.

“Panic is futile,” said student Maria Shcherbenko as the crowd waved the blue and yellow flags of Ukraine and sang the national anthem. “We must unite and fight for independence.”

Adding to the already heightened tensions, Russia’s Defense Ministry said on Saturday it had expelled a US submarine it said it had entered its territorial waters near the Kuril Islands in the North Pacific.

The ministry said it had subpoenaed the US defense attache about the Moscow incident, while the Pentagon only said it was aware of press reports.

‘Every Day Now’

Washington on Friday issued its direst warning yet that Russia had gathered enough strength to launch a serious attack.

“Our view that military action could happen any day now, and could happen before the Olympics are over, only grows in terms of its robustness,” warned US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan.

Ukrainian leaders have sought to downplay the prospects of an all-out war because such fears have had a damaging impact on the country’s faltering economy and public morale.

But the mood across the country remained tense.

The mayor’s office in Kyiv said it had drawn up an emergency evacuation plan for the capital’s three million residents as a precaution.

Chancellor Olaf Scholz will travel to Kiev on Monday and then visit Putin as Europe scrambles to maintain lines of communication with Moscow.

Russia is seeking binding security guarantees from the West, including a pledge to withdraw NATO troops from Eastern Europe and never expand into Ukraine.

Washington has flatly rejected the demands and has offered to negotiate a new European disarmament agreement with Moscow.

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