Biden raises concerns with Putin about Ukraine confrontation

Andrew Cummings
April 14, 2021

US President Joe Biden on Tuesday told his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin to lower tensions on the Ukrainian border and suggested they hold their first summit.

"Biden also made clear that the United States will act firmly in defense of its national interests in response to Russia's actions, such as cyber intrusions and election interference", the statement added.

Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said on Tuesday Russia had moved two armies and three paratrooper units to near its western borders in the last three weeks, responding to what it called threatening military action by North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.

Moscow seized Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 and fighting has escalated in recent weeks in eastern Ukraine, where government forces have battled Russian-backed separatists in a seven-year conflict that Kyiv says has killed 14,000 people.

War monitors and the White House have said that Russian Federation has amassed the largest military force near its border with Ukraine and in annexed Crimea since the conflict broke out in 2014, sparking calls for restraint from world powers. Biden proposed a summit meeting in a third country "in the coming months" to discuss the full range of U.S. -Russia issues, the White House said.

In its readout of the Biden-Putin call, the Kremlin said "both sides expressed their readiness to continue dialogue on the most important areas of ensuring global security".

The Kremlin confirmed that the USA president had proposed what would be the leaders' first summit since Biden came to office vowing a tougher line on Russian Federation, including over its alleged interference in United States elections and harsh treatment of ailing opposition leader Alexei Navalny. USA intelligence released a report last month finding that Putin authorized influence operations to help former President Donald Trump's reelection bid.

The Biden-Putin call came as Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba met in Brussels with top officials of North Atlantic Treaty Organisation nations including Secretary of State Antony Blinken and the transatlantic alliance's chief, Jens Stoltenberg.

Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said Tuesday the buildup was part of readiness drills in response to what he described as threats from North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, and he said the manoeuvres in western Russia would last for two more weeks.

"In response to the alliance's military activities that threaten Russian Federation, we took appropriate measures", Shoigu said in televised remarks, adding the exercises would be completed within two weeks.

"Russia will not be able to catch anyone by surprise anymore".

In separate meetings with Ukraine's foreign minister, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation chief Jens Stoltenberg expressed serious concern about Russian Federation deploying the largest concentration of troops near the Ukraine border since 2014.

The Kremlin has warned North Atlantic Treaty Organisation off getting further involved in Ukraine and on Tuesday accused the alliance members of turning the country into a "powder keg".

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov denounced the latest deployment as "openly provocative", adding that "American ships have absolutely nothing to do near our shores".

"But Kiev and its allies in the West will be entirely responsible for the consequences of a hypothetical exacerbation".

Kuleba said Kyiv wanted a diplomatic solution, though he also appealed for further economic sanctions against Moscow and more military assistance to Ukraine.

Intensified clashes between pro-Russia separatists and Ukrainian forces in the separatist-controlled Donbass and Luhansk regions this year have undermined a ceasefire that took effect last summer.

"Should Moscow take any reckless move or start a new spiral of violence, it will be costly in all senses", Kuleba said.

Other reports by iNewsToday