Biden tells Putin Ukraine invasion would bring swift, decisive response
US President Joe Biden told Russia’s Vladimir Putin during an hour-long call on Saturday that a Russian invasion of Ukraine would bring a decisive and swift response from the West, as well as produce widespread suffering and diminish Russia’s standing in the world.
In the latest effort to avert hostilities, the two men spoke by phone a day after Washington and its allies warned Russian forces massed near Ukraine could invade at any moment. A senior Biden administration official said the call was professional and substantive, but said there was no fundamental change.
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Russia’s military buildup near Ukraine and a surge of military activity has fueled fears that Russia could invade. Russia denies having any such plans.
Biden told Putin that the United States is prepared for diplomacy and “other scenarios,” the White House said.
The senior Biden administration official said the pair had a direct conversation touching on all the issues the United States has raised in public. The official said it remains unclear whether Putin is willing to pursue a diplomatic path.
Earlier on Saturday, the US State Department ordered most of its embassy staff to leave 02-12 Ukraine, adding to its call on Friday for private citizens to get out of the country within 48 hours. The Pentagon said it was withdrawing about 150 military trainers.
More countries told their citizens in Ukraine to leave the country immediately, with Israel, Portugal and Bulgaria joining the list on Saturday.
In a separate call on Saturday, French President Emmanuel Macron told Putin that sincere negotiations were incompatible with an escalation in tensions over Ukraine, France said.
Biden and Macron are due to speak later on Saturday, according to a French presidency official.
The official said there were no indications from what Putin told Macron that Russia is preparing an offensive against Ukraine.
Washington said on Friday that a Russian invasion of Ukraine, likely beginning with an air assault, could occur at any time.
Moscow has repeatedly disputed Washington’s version of events, saying it has massed more than 100,000 troops near the Ukrainian border to maintain its own security against aggression by NATO allies.
Russia, which has accused Western nations of spreading lies to distract from their own acts, meanwhile said on Saturday that it had decided to “optimize” its diplomatic staff numbers in Ukraine, fearing “provocations” by Kyiv or others.
It said its embassy and consulates in Ukraine continued to perform their key functions.
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