Biden, Putin Prepared to Talk Next Week Amid Ukraine Tensions: Russia

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U.S. President Joe Biden and his Russian counterpart will speak next week amid tensions between Russia and Ukraine, according to the Kremlin.

A spokesman for the Russian government told RIA Novosti, a state news agency, that the video call will take place on the evening of Dec. 7.

Asked how long the meeting will last, he said “the presidents themselves” will “determine that.”

The White House did not respond to a request for comment and has not said a call will take place. White House press secretary Jen Psaki described a talk between the presidents as a possibility earlier this week.

“We’re aware of Russia’s actions for a long time and my expectation is we’re going to have a long discussion with Putin,” Biden told reporters on Friday as he left Washington for a weekend at Camp David.

Biden and other American officials have expressed concern over the buildup of Russian troops along its border with Ukraine.

Ukrainian officials have estimated more than 90,000 Russian troops are near its border and in Russian-occupied Crimea, and have said they believe an attack is imminent. They have asked the United States and other countries for help defending its borders.

Ukraine was part of the Soviet Union. It became an independent country in 1991.

Western countries view Ukraine as a bulwark against Russia, which harbors ambitions for more territorial control. Russia seized Crimea when former U.S. President Barack Obama was in office in 2014.

Biden told reporters in Washington on Friday he’s been in constant contact with Ukrainian officials.

“And what I am doing is putting together what I believe to be will be the most comprehensive and meaningful set of initiatives to make it very, very difficult for Mr. Putin to go ahead and do what people are worried he may do,” he said.

According to the Kremlin, Putin will on next week’s call try to get Biden to promise the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) won’t expand to Russia.

“I don’t accept anyone’s red line,” Biden said on Friday.

NATO’s Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Tuesday that the Russian buildup was “unprovoked and unexplained” and called on Russia to be transparent.

Biden and Putin have had a rocky relationship since shortly after Biden took office.

The Russian president was upset that his counterpart agreed during a televised interview that Putin is a “killer” and challenged Biden to a live debate.

The pair are known to have last spoken in July. According to a White House readout, Biden told Putin there was a need for Russia to take action to disrupt so-called ransomware groups, or hackers, operating in Russia.

Biden also reiterated the United States “will take any necessary action to defend its people and its critical infrastructure in the face of this continuing challenge,” the White House said.

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