Biden urges Putin to reduce tensions with Ukraine in phone call

Washington, Dec 30 (EFE).- President Joe Biden urged his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, to reduce tensions with Ukraine amid the mobilization of Moscow’s troops along their mutual border and he insisted that Washington and its allies “will respond decisively” if Russia invades the neighboring country.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki released a statement Thursday afternoon discussing aspects of the two leaders’ telephone call, which was held at Moscow’s request.

Biden backed diplomatic efforts to defuse the Moscow-manufactured crisis and “urged Russia to de-escalate tensions with Ukraine. He made clear that the United States and its allies and partners will respond decisively if Russia further invades Ukraine.”

Psaki added that Biden “reiterated that substantive progress in these dialogues (with Russia and within various international organizations on the matter) can occur only in an environment of de-escalation rather than escalation.”

The call, which lasted some 50 minutes, began at 3:35 pm, Washington time, the White House said.

The US president remained at his home in Wilmington, Delaware, for the call, having traveled there from Washington to celebrate the New Year with family.

In a photo released by the White House, Biden can be seen seated at a desk filled with family photos and wearing a dark blue suit and tie as he holds the telephone receiver.

The call, which was arranged at Moscow’s express request, was the second direct contact between the two leaders in December after they held a videoconference on Dec. 7.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Peskov a few hours prior to the call had announced the upcoming phone session between Biden and Putin, saying that it would be the continuation of the Dec. 7 virtual summit and that the two men would also discuss “a series of current issues linked to the scheduled consultations on (Jan.) 10, 11 and 12.”

The consultations between Russia and the US regarding the security guarantees that Moscow is demanding from Washington and NATO are scheduled to begin on Jan. 10 in Geneva.

Meanwhile, the Kremlin said that in the call Putin warned Biden that new Western sanctions on Moscow could rupture ties between Russia and the US and would be a big mistake.

Kremlin aide Yuri Ushakov told reporters that Russia was satisfied with the call, saying that it focused on the security guarantees Moscow wants from Western nations and NATO.

In recent weeks, tensions have escalated in the face of a potential Russian attack on – and invasion of – Ukraine, which according to both Ukrainian and US sources could come in early 2022, possibly within the next few weeks.

Russia has denied that it is preparing a military offensive and has said that the West is paying too much attention to its massive deployment of some 100,000 troops near the Ukrainian border, asserting that it is its right to move its troops around wherever it wants within its national territory.

CNN reported on Thursday that, before the telephone call between Biden and Putin, a US Air Force aircraft – specifically an E-8 JSTARS radar monitoring and attack coordination plane – overflew eastern Ukraine to gather intelligence information on the military situation there.

Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in 2014, along with a significant portion of Ukrainian territory between the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov, and since then Moscow has worked to undermine Kyiv’s sovereignty, both militarily and in various other ways.

EFE lb/afs/lll/bp

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