Ukraine has warned that over 94,000 Russian troops are gathered near its borders, raising fears that Russia could launch a large-scale military offensive within a few weeks. Ukraine and the US are accused by Russia of unnecessarily escalating tensions, suggesting Kiev could prepare its own offensive in eastern Ukraine – a charge strongly denied by Kiev. There will be a video call between Mr Biden and Mr Putin in the coming days to ease rising tensions.
The US president said earlier that he expected to have a “long discussion” with his Russian counterpart, but that he would not “accept any red lines”.
“We’ve been aware of Russia’s actions for a long time, and I expect to have a long conversation with Putin,” he said.
“I don’t accept anyone’s red lines,” he said of Russia’s demands.
Mr Biden said he was working on “meaningful” initiatives to make it as difficult as possible for Putin to invade Ukraine – without getting into details.
“I am putting in place what I believe are the most comprehensive and meaningful measures to make it very, very difficult for Mr Putin to go ahead and do what the public fears he will do.”
There are no specifics on these planned measures, but US and Ukrainian officials warned earlier this week of severe economic sanctions against Russia.
Sergei Lavrov claimed the United States threatened new sanctions after meeting with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Thursday.
President Biden’s warning comes after the Washington Post reported that the country’s intelligence officials are worried that Russia is planning a multi-front offensive with up to 175,000 soldiers as early as next year.
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Mr Reznikov added: “The better we work – alone and together with our partners – the lower the risk of escalation.
“The way is to make the price of a possible escalation unacceptable to the attacker.
“Ukraine is most interested in the political and diplomatic scenario of the settlement.
“In principle, there can be no violent provocations on our part.
“At the same time, the way to ‘pacify the aggressor’ is not being considered. If necessary, Ukraine will defend itself.”
On Thursday, US Secretary of State Blinken urged Russia to withdraw its troops near Ukraine and instead pursue a diplomatic solution to escalating tensions in the region.
He spoke after a meeting with his Russian counterpart Lavrov in Stockholm on the fringes of the Nations of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).
During a news conference, Blinken said: “The United States and our allies and partners are deeply concerned that Russia has made plans for significant aggressive moves against Ukraine, including internal destabilization and large-scale military operations.”