Biden agrees in principle to Ukraine summit with Putin

  • Macron proposes a Biden-Putin summit
  • White House says summit only possible if Russia doesn’t invade
  • Sporadic shelling across the eastern demarcation line

Feb 21 (Reuters) – U.S. President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin have agreed in principle to a summit on Ukraine, the French leader said on Monday, offering a possible way out of the conflict. one of the most dangerous European crises in decades.

Financial markets rose slightly on the glimmer of hope for a diplomatic solution even as satellite imagery appeared to show Russian deployments closer to the Ukrainian border and sounds of fighting were heard in the east on Monday. , where Ukrainian government forces are fighting pro-Russian separatists.

French President Emmanuel Macron’s office said in a statement that it had offered the two leaders a summit on “security and strategic stability in Europe.” The White House said in a statement that Biden agreed to the meeting “in principle” but only “if an invasion did not occur.”

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“We are always ready for diplomacy,” said White House press secretary Jen Psaki. “We are also prepared to impose swift and severe consequences if Russia chooses war instead.”

Messages seeking comment from the Kremlin and the office of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy were not immediately returned early Monday.

Many details of the proposed summit – which was announced after a volley of phone calls between Macron, Biden, Putin, Zelenskiy and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson – are unclear.

Macron’s office and the White House said the substance of the summit would be worked out by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov when they meet scheduled for February 24. What role Ukraine would play in the summit, if any, was also uncertain.

A Biden administration official said in an email that the summit was “completely moot” because the timing and format had yet to be determined.

As oil prices fell, Asian stock markets pared losses and Wall Street futures rallied on news of a possible top, Michael McFaul, former US ambassador to Russia, said that he was skeptical that it would happen. Read more

“But if Biden and Putin have met, they should invite (Zelenskiy) to join,” he said in a post on Twitter.

News of Macron’s proposal comes after a week of heightened tension spurred by Russia’s military buildup. Russian forces have massed around its neighbor since late last year in what Western countries say is the prelude to an invasion that could come at any time.

Russia denies any intention to invade, but nerves rose further when the Belarusian Defense Ministry announced that Russia would extend military exercises in Belarus which were due to end on Sunday.

US satellite imagery company Maxar has reported several new deployments of Russian military units in forests, farms and industrial areas just 15 km (9 miles) from the border with Ukraine. Read more

Blinken said on Sunday that the extension of exercises in Belarus, which borders Ukraine to the north, had made him more worried that Russia was on the verge of an attack.

“Until the tanks actually roll and the planes fly, we will use every opportunity and every minute we have to see if diplomacy can still dissuade President Putin from pursuing this,” he said. at CNN. Read more

In a letter to UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet seen by Reuters on Sunday, the United States expressed concern that “a new Russian invasion of Ukraine could create a disaster for human rights”.

“Specifically, we have credible information indicating that Russian forces are creating lists of identified Ukrainians to be killed or sent to camps following a military occupation,” the US ambassador to the UN in Geneva wrote. Bathsheba Nell Crocker.

sporadic shelling

Sporadic shelling across the line dividing Ukrainian government forces and pro-Russian separatists to the east has intensified since Thursday. Sounds of fighting were heard again on Monday, including an explosion in the center of the separatist city of Donetsk. The cause was not known.

The rebels said two civilians were killed in shelling by government forces in Kiev, Russian news agency RIA reported.

Kyiv has accused pro-Russian forces of shelling their own compatriots in the breakaway region to blame Ukrainian government forces.

Western countries are preparing sanctions they say would be far-reaching against Russian businesses and individuals in the event of an invasion, including measures to prevent U.S. financial institutions from processing transactions for major Russian banks, officials said. people familiar with the matter. Read more

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson told the BBC that such measures could include restrictions on Russian companies’ access to the dollar and the pound.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told German broadcaster ARD that Russia “would in principle be cut off from international financial markets” and cut off from key European exports. Read more

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said it was time for the West to implement at least some of the sanctions he prepared, but the Biden administration refused to do so, saying that their deterrent effect would be lost if they were used too soon. Read more

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Reports from Reuters offices; Written by Raphael Satter and Stephen Coates; Editing by Robert Birsel

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


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William D. Babcock

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