What was said between Biden and Putin in phonecall?
US President Joe Biden spoke with Russia's leader on Saturday as concerns continue to grow over the likelihood of the latter invading Ukraine.
In what is a growing international crisis, Saturday saw US President Joe Biden and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin conclude their call regarding the troop build-up around Ukraine, in what was believed to be one of the final attempts to calm tensions and ward off an invasion of Ukraine. As confirmed by a White House official, the secure call started at 11:04 a.m. eastern time in the United States and ended just over an hour later, at 12:06 p.m. In the call, Biden is said to have made it clear that Russia would face a "swift and severe costs" if they were to attack.
“President Biden was clear that, if Russia undertakes a further invasion of Ukraine, the United States together with our Allies and partners will respond decisively and impose swift and severe costs on Russia,” the White House said in a statement.
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“President Biden reiterated that a further Russian invasion of Ukraine would produce widespread human suffering and diminish Russia’s standing.”
There were conflicting reports about which leader instigated the call between Biden and Putin with the White House saying that the Kremlin had made the suggestion while the reverse was said by Russian officials. This call followed another by a Nato leader as France's Emmanuel Macron spoke with Putin for over an hour and a half.
US secretary of state Antony Blinken had dialogue with his counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, hours before the two leaders spoke and called on “a diplomatic resolution to Russia’s unprovoked military build-up around Ukraine,” adding that, "further Russian aggression would be met with a resolute, massive, and united transatlantic response.”
How likely is a Russian invasion into Ukraine?
In recent weeks the conflict on the border between Ukraine and Russia has escalated rapidly as Russian President Vladimir Putin amasses a considerable military presence on the ground. Those tensions have reached new heights over the past 48 hours and reports suggested that Putin has already told his military generals to prepare for invasion. In a White House news briefing on Friday US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan warned that an attack could be imminent.
“As we’ve said before, we are in the window when an invasion could begin at any time, should Vladimir Putin decide to order it,” Sullivan told reporters.
“I will not comment on the details of our intelligence information, but I do want to be clear: It could begin during the Olympics, despite a lot of speculation that it would only happen after the Olympics.”
In response a Russian ministry statement published online on Friday insists that reports of an invasion are unfounded and blamed “a media campaign unprecedented in its scale and sophistication” for the allegations.
President Joe Biden will speak with Putin on Saturday to discuss the situation in Eastern Europe and attempt to deescalate matters.
Russian troops stationed on the Ukrainian border
For weeks Putin has maintained that the 100,000 troops located at various points encircling Ukraine are simply carrying out military exercises. However he has warned that Russia could take unspecified "military-technical" action unless the West meets some of his demands, which would require a pledge from NATO never to admit Ukraine and to withdraw forces from Eastern Europe.
Last month a statement from the US State Department confirmed: “What concerns us is the total picture… It is the amassing of 100,000 troops along Ukraine’s borders combined with moving forces into Belarus over the weekend … these numbers are beyond, of course, what we would expect with regard to a normal exercise.”
The Guardian reported that Russian troops have travelled more than 4,000 miles to reach Ukraine’s border, doing so on the pretence of a naval drill.
In addition to that a significant amount of weaponry, including elite spetsnaz troops and Iskander short-range ballistic missiles, has been relocated from Russia’s eastern military district. From that range, analysts predict that Russia would be able to target the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv.
Hopes of a diplomatic solution now seem distant
Last month US Secretary of State Antony Blinken travelled to Geneva to meet with representatives from both sides in the hope of finding a diplomatic solution. He met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and the two are thought to have discussed the deployment of troops on the Ukrainian border.
However the 90-minute meeting did not result in any new agreement between the two nations. Speaking after his meeting with Lavrov, Blinken told reporters: “If Russia wants to begin to convince the world that it has no aggressive intent toward Ukraine, a very good place to start would be by deescalating by bringing back and removing these forces from Ukraine’s borders.”
Ukraine was the most populous nation, aside from Russia, to emerge from the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 and there are many cultural and historical similarities between the two sovereign nations. A Russian take-over of Ukraine has long been one of President Putin's greatest ambitions, according to reports.