Biden and Putin to hold call amid rising tensions over Ukraine

Russian military offensive into Ukraine could begin in early 2022, officials say

US president Joe Biden: ‘We’ve been aware of Russia’s actions for a long time and my expectation is we’re gonna have a long discussion with Putin.’ Photograph: Evan Vucci/AP

US president Joe Biden: ‘We’ve been aware of Russia’s actions for a long time and my expectation is we’re gonna have a long discussion with Putin.’ Photograph: Evan Vucci/AP

 

US president Joe Biden and Russian president Vladimir Putin will hold a video call on Tuesday to deal with military tensions over Ukraine and other topics.

Mr Biden wants to discuss US concerns about Russia’s military build-up on the Ukraine border, a US source said on Saturday, as well as strategic stability and cyber and regional issues.

“We’re aware of Russia’s actions for a long time and my expectation is we’re going to have a long discussion with Putin,” Mr Biden told reporters on Friday as he departed for a weekend trip to Camp David. “I don’t accept anybody’s red lines,” he said, referencing the Russian leader’s warning that deployment of western weapons or troops represented a “red line”.

The two will also talk about bilateral ties and the implementation of agreements reached at their Geneva summit in June, the Kremlin said on Saturday. “The conversation will indeed take place on Tuesday,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Reuters. “Bilateral relations, of course Ukraine and the realisation of the agreements reached in Geneva are the main [items] on the agenda,” he said.

Mr Biden will reaffirm the US’s support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, the US source said. The exact timing of the call was not disclosed. The White House declined to comment.

US intelligence

Intelligence officials in the US have found Russian planning is under way for a possible military offensive into Ukraine that could begin as soon as early-2022.

The new intelligence finding estimates the Russians are planning to use about 175,000 troops and almost half of them are already deployed along various points near Ukraine’s border, according to an official with the Biden administration who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the finding.

The official added that the plans call for the movement of 100 battalion tactical groups along with armour, artillery and equipment.

It comes as Russia has picked up its demands on Mr Biden to guarantee that Ukraine will not be allowed to join Nato.

Mr Biden on Friday pledged to make it “very, very difficult” for Mr Putin to take military action in Ukraine.

US intelligence officials have seen an uptick in Russian propaganda efforts through the use of proxies and media outlets to denigrate Ukraine and Nato ahead of a potential invasion, the White House official said.

The risks of such a gambit for Mr Putin, if he actually went through with an invasion, would be enormous.

US officials and former diplomats say that while Mr Putin is clearly laying the groundwork for a possible invasion, Ukraine’s military is better armed and prepared today than in past years and the sanctions threatened by the West would do serious damage to Russia’s economy.

It remains unclear if Mr Putin intends to go through with what would be a risky offensive, they say. – Associated Press/Reuters