Biden, Putin meet for rare talks to discuss Ukraine

Moscow, Dec 7 (EFE).- The presidents of Russia and the United States on Tuesday began a bilateral summit to address rising tensions in eastern Ukraine.

Vladimir Putin and Joe Biden have only met once since the latter took office last year, at a brief meeting in Geneva in June.

The Kremlin has said it does not expect any real progress to be made during Tuesday’s video conference, calling it a “working conversation.”

The summit is being held amid escalating tensions in Ukraine. Increasing numbers of Russian troops have been deployed to the border areas in recent weeks, and last week Biden warned Moscow of serious consequences if it were to invade.

US and Ukrainian intelligence reports suggest that between 70,000 and 94,000 Russian soldiers have been sent to the border with eastern Ukraine.

Russia has denied reports that it is planning an invasion, insisting the deployments are defensive due to Nato’s and Western countries’ increasing support of Ukraine.

Biden is also expected to warn Putin that the US is prepared to reinforce Nato’s eastern flank, probably with “additional” troops, should Russia attack or invade Ukraine, a senior US official said Monday.

The Russian leader wants to propose legally binding guarantees that Nato will not expand further into Russia’s sphere of influence — namely Ukraine and Georgia — and that it will not deploy weaponry on Ukrainian territory.

Putin accuses Nato of ignoring “legitimate Russian security concerns” and of breaking promises that it would not expand eastwards when in 1999 and 2004 it grew to include several Central and Eastern European countries.

In addition to the tensions in Ukraine, the two presidents will discuss their countries’ battered bilateral relations and the agreements reached in Geneva in June on strategic stability and cybersecurity.

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