BIDEN TELLS PUTIN: DE-ESCALATE TENSIONS IN UKRAINE
President Joe Biden urged Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday to “de-escalate tensions” following a Russian military buildup on Ukraine’s border in their second tense call of Biden’s young presidency, Matthew Lee, Raf Casert and Aamer Madhani reported for the Associated Press (AP).
Biden also told Putin the US would “act firmly in defense of its national interests” regarding Russian cyber intrusions and election interference, according to the White House. Biden proposed a summit in a third country “in the coming months” to discuss the full range of U.S.-Russia issues, the White House said.
The Biden-Putin relationship has been rocky in the early going of the new U.S. administration. Biden is weighing action against Russia for the SolarWinds hacking campaign, Russian interference in the 2020 presidential election, reports of Russian bounties on US soldiers in Afghanistan and the poisoning and jailing of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny.
There is growing concern in the West about a surge of ceasefire violations in eastern Ukraine, where Russia-baсked separatists and Ukrainian forces have been locked in a conflict since Moscow’s 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula. Biden’s call with Putin came as the top US diplomat and the leader of NATO condemned the recent massing of thousands of Russian troops.
“President Biden emphasized the United States’ unwavering commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” the White House said in a statement. The White House added that Biden made clear that Russia must “de-escalate tensions.”