Biden-Putin Parley Starts As U.S. Threatens Toughest Sanctions
US President Joe Biden began a video conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday, Russian state television said, after US officials warned Moscow could be hit with the toughest economic sanctions yet if it invades Ukraine, Steve Holland and Andrew Osborn reported for Reuters.
Photo Insert: President Biden held a secure video call with President Putin of Russia to discuss a range of topics in the U.S.-Russia relationship, including concerns about Russian military activities on the border with Ukraine, cyber, and regional issues.
The officials said the sanctions, which one source said could target Russia's biggest banks and Moscow's ability to convert roubles into dollars and other currencies, were designed to dissuade Putin from using tens of thousands of troops massed near the Ukrainian border to attack its southern neighbor.
The Kremlin, which said before the meeting it did not expect any breakthroughs, has denied harboring such intentions and has said its troop posture is defensive.
But Moscow has voiced rising vexation over Western military aid to Ukraine, a fellow former Soviet republic that has tilted towards the West since a popular revolt toppled a pro-Russian president in 2014, and what it calls creeping NATO expansion.
Moscow has likewise questioned Ukrainian intentions and said it wants guarantees that Kyiv will not use force to try to retake territory lost in 2014 to Russia-backed separatists, a scenario Ukraine has ruled out.
"We're looking for good, predictable relations with the United States. Russia has never intended to attack anyone, but we have our concerns and we have our red lines," said Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov.