Putin, Biden discuss tensions over Ukraine on phone
Russian President Vladimir Putin and his US counterpart Joe Biden held their second phone call in less than a month in light of soaring tensions over Ukraine.
US President Joe Biden and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin discussed the rising tensions over Ukraine between Moscow and the West in a phone call on Wednesday.
The call lasted 50 minutes and took place at the request of the Russian president less than a month since the last call between the two heads of state. White House officials said the call began at 3:35 PM EST (8:35 PM GMT) and concluded after midnight in Moscow.
President Biden speaks on the phone with President Putin earlier today. pic.twitter.com/8CjCdIPl5k— The White House (@WhiteHouse) December 30, 2021
Following that call, the White House said in a statement that President Biden "voiced the deep concerns of the United States and our European allies about Russia's escalation of forces surrounding Ukraine."
Moscow and Washington are expected to hold in-person negotiations in Geneva, Switzerland, next month, and ahead of Thursday's call, both parties said they were ready to listen.
Putin had sent a telegram to his US counterpart with New Year's and Christmas wishes along with other holiday messages to other world leaders.
"I am convinced that in the development of our agreements reached during the June summit in Geneva and subsequent contacts that we can move forward and establish an effective Russian-American dialogue based on mutual respect and in consideration of each other’s national interests," Putin wrote.
President Putin's foreign affairs adviser Yuriy Ushakov said Biden reaffirmed the US threat of fresh sanctions against Russia if the latter were to escalate with its neighboring country or "invade Ukraine."
According to Ushakov, Putin responded by warning the United States that such US moves could lead to a complete rupture of ties.
"It would be a colossal mistake that would entail grave consequences," he said, adding that Putin told Biden Russia would act like the United States would if offensive weapons were deployed near American borders.
Russia is facing US-European allegations of having plans to invade Ukraine, in addition to a military buildup on their shared borders, which they claim amounts to 100,000 Russian troops.
The secretary of the Ukrainian Security and Defense Council said Thursday his country believed there was no immediate threat of a major Russian invasion. Similarly, Kyiv had denied in November Western reports of a Russian military buildup near its eastern border.
President Vladimir Putin had said earlier this month Moscow pursues a peaceful foreign policy; however, it had the right to defend its security.
Russia has been demanding a written commitment that Ukraine would never be able to join NATO and that the alliance would not place any military equipment in certain countries in the region surrounding Russia.
The West has refused Russia's demands of a guarantee, saying NATO's principle stipulates that membership is open to any qualifying country. However, ahead of the call, the White House said Biden would tell Putin a diplomatic path remains open.
The Kremlin sees that it is best for Russian security that the alliance does not expand eastward and that Russia does not have any Western military activity in its vicinity.
Russia has repeatedly denied the Western allegations of intending to invade its western neighbor, and Moscow's Foreign Intelligence Service accused the US State Department of spreading false information about the alleged troop buildup.