Biden, Putin hold high-stakes two-hour conference call on Ukraine

In recent months, Russia has been erecting supply lines, including medical units and fuel, that could support a protracted conflict if Moscow chooses to invade Ukraine, two sources familiar with the two told CNN. latest intelligence assessments. And recent findings by US intelligence services estimate that Russia could launch a military offensive in Ukraine in a matter of months, as it accumulates up to 175,000 troops along the border.

The meeting began at 10:07 a.m. ET and ended at 12:08 a.m. ET, according to the White House.

In what was to be one of the most crucial foreign policy meetings of Biden’s still young presidency, the president was to explain to Putin what sanctions and other steps the United States could take if the Russian president decided to invade the country. ‘Ukraine. The US intelligence community believes Putin still has not decided to launch a military offensive against Ukraine, and Biden had planned to tell Putin that the US is ready to take “substantial economic countermeasures” intended to inflict “significant and serious economic damage to the Russian economy” if Putin goes ahead with a military escalation, a senior administration official told reporters on Monday.

The two leaders attended a summit in Geneva last June. Their last known public call was in July.

Later Tuesday afternoon, after the call, Biden will meet with French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson – the same group of European allies with whom he spoke on Monday evening. Tuesday marks Merkel’s last full day in office.

On Monday evening, the leaders discussed “their common concern about the strengthening of the Russian army on the borders of Ukraine and the increasingly harsh rhetoric of Russia,” according to a White House statement.

“The leaders agreed to stay in close contact on a coordinated and comprehensive approach in response to Russia’s military build-up on Ukraine’s borders,” the White House said of Monday’s appeal.

White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan also plans to brief reporters Tuesday afternoon at 2 p.m. ET from the White House.

On Monday, the Pentagon confirmed that it continues to observe “additional military capability” of Russian forces along the country’s border with Ukraine.

“What we continue to see, and what we continue to see, are additional capabilities that President Putin continues to add, additional military capabilities in the western part of his country and around Ukraine,” he said. Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said.

In recent days, US officials have questioned whether to impose far-reaching sanctions on Russia in a bid to deter Putin from launching an invasion in Ukraine. They include further actions against members of Putin’s inner circle and against Russian energy producers, and a potential “nuclear option” – to disconnect Russia from the SWIFT international payments system used by banks around the world.

Officials said final decisions had not been made on whether and when to apply the new sanctions, and said the Biden administration was currently in talks with European partners – many of whom have connections. closer economic relations with Russia – in the hope of coordinating action.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki told Monday’s press conference that Biden “will be clear – as we have said publicly – that we are preparing a round of economic sanctions or economic options that could have a negative impact on the Russian economy. ”

The administration is also studying options for a potential evacuation of U.S. citizens from Ukraine if Russia invades the country and creates a dire security situation, half a dozen sources told CNN. Contingency planning is led by the Pentagon, the sources said, and comes as the administration briefs Congress on the United States’ preparedness. In a “grim” briefing to senators by senior State Department official Victoria Nuland on Monday evening, Nuland described the tough sanctions package prepared by the administration in response to a potential Russian attack, but acknowledged that United States to deter an invasion is quite limited, said a person familiar with the briefing.

The Russian leader was expected to come to the meeting with his own demands.

Putin indicated last week that he would call for specific agreements that would exclude any further NATO expansion to the east and the deployment of its weapons near Russia’s borders. If Putin tells Biden on Tuesday that NATO should not admit Ukraine as a member – as it should – Biden is unlikely to accede to the request.

A senior administration official said this week that the United States has engaged in “intensive discussions with our European partners on what we would do collectively in the event of a major Russian military escalation.”

The European Union “continues to fully support Ukraine in the face of Russian aggression,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said in a tweet on Tuesday.

“We will respond to any new aggression, by intensifying and widening the existing sanctions,” she added.

She also said the EU was “ready to take further restrictive measures, in coordination with our partners”.

“The rise of extremism and autocracy can also be a security problem for countries. In this context, we must also talk about the Russian military movements and their massive accumulation along the eastern border of Ukraine “, she continued.

This is a breaking story and will be updated.

CNN’s Kevin Liptak, Natasha Bertrand, Ellie Kaufman, Jennifer Hansler, Zahra Ullah, Anna Chernova and Jim Sciutto contributed to this report.

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