US President Biden Proposes Summit with Russian President Putin
U.S. President Joe Biden called on Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday to reduce tensions stirred by a Russian military build-up on Ukraine’s border and proposed a summit of the estranged leaders to tackle a raft of disputes.
The White House and the Kremlin reported only the second conversation between the two since Biden took office in January, after Western officials urged Moscow to end the build-up and Russia, in words recalling the Cold War, said its “adversary” should keep U.S. warships well away from the Crimea region.
Russia seized Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 and fighting has increased in recent weeks in eastern Ukraine, where government forces have battled Russian-backed separatists in a seven-year conflict that Kyiv says has killed 14,000 people.
In a sign of concern about tensions spinning out of control in the Ukraine crisis, Biden phoned Putin to propose they meet in a third country while underlining U.S. commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
“President Biden also made clear that the United States will act firmly in defense of its national interests in response to Russia’s actions, such as cyber intrusions and election interference,” the White House said in a statement.
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said Moscow had moved two armies and three paratrooper units to its western border as part of a large snap drill meant to test combat readiness and respond to what he called threatening military action by NATO.
According to U.S. State Department official this is enormous build-up for Russia's military capacity but Russian intentions are not known yet.
Russia has regularly accused NATO of destabilizing Europe with its troop reinforcements in the Baltics and Poland since the annexation of Crimea.
Biden also reaffirmed a goal to build “a stable and predictable relationship” with Russia and said a meeting in the coming months could address “the full range of issues” facing the two world powers, the statement said.
Meanwhile two U.S. warships are arrived in the Black Sea this week in response to what U.S. and NATO officials say is the largest massing of Russian forces since Moscow seized Crimea from Ukraine.
US State Secretary Blinken met Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba in Brussels after Group of Seven foreign ministers condemned what they said was the unexplained rise in Russian troop numbers.
Echoing NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, who met Kuleba earlier, Blinken said Moscow’s military actions on Ukraine’s doorstep were “very provocative”./reuters
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