By Lucia Leal
Washington DC, Feb 20 (EFE).- Washington agreed on Sunday to hold a presidential summit with Moscow on the condition that it does not invade Ukraine, and reiterated that all signs point to an imminent attack.
US President Joe Biden “accepted in principle” a meeting with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, “if an invasion hasn’t happened,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement on Sunday night.
“We are always ready for diplomacy. We are also ready to impose swift and severe consequences should Russia instead choose war. And currently, Russia appears to be continuing preparations for a full-scale assault on Ukraine very soon,” she warned.
Putin has also agreed to the summit, according to a statement from the office of French President Emmanuel Macron, who brokered the meeting.
After speaking once with Biden and twice with Putin, the French president proposed that a meeting between the two leaders be held first, and “then with relevant stakeholders to discuss security and strategic stability in Europe,” the Elysee Palace said.
“It can only be held at the condition that Russia does not invade Ukraine,” it said.
No date or format has been set for the summit as it depends on whether Russia attacks Ukraine, in which case there will be no meeting, a White House source told EFE.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov are scheduled to meet in Europe on Thursday to thrash out the details of the meeting, “provided Russia does not proceed with military action,” Psaki said.
In recent days, the US has adopted a strategy of publicly explaining, in as many details as possible, how a Russian attack on Ukraine could unfold, with the aim of disrupting the Kremlin’s alleged plans.
On Friday, Biden said he is “convinced” that Putin has “made the decision” to invade Ukraine and has “reason to believe” the attack could happen in the coming days.
According to Washington, artillery attacks in eastern Ukraine on Saturday and accusations by pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine’s Donbas region of an alleged Ukrainian offensive against them are signs that Putin has put his plan into motion.
Meanwhile, Russia’s ambassador to the US, Anatoly Antonov, downplayed Russia and Belarus’ decision to extend the inspection of the countries’ armed forces, which have been conducting joint military maneuvers, beyond Sunday when they were scheduled to end.
“I would like to confirm that there is not any plan to start a war. We don’t want a war,” the Russian diplomat said in an interview with CBS News on Sunday. EFE