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Biden, Macron hold talks with Putin as tensions peak

February 12, 2022 10:14 pmby Artur Korniienko
US President Joe Biden (R) speaks during a meeting via a video call with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Dec. 7, 2021. The latest call between the leaders was held on Feb. 12. (White House/Facebook)

U.S. President Joe Biden and French President Emmanuel Macron held separate telephone conversations with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Feb. 12.

Both Western leaders tried to dissuade Putin from a deeper military invasion of Ukraine.

Biden, who spoke with Putin for about an hour, had a direct message to his Russian counterpart: A further invasion of Ukraine will make the U.S. and its allies "respond decisively and impose swift and severe costs on Russia."

"Biden said that while the U.S. remains prepared for diplomacy, with its allies and partners they are equally prepared for other scenarios," the White House stated.

A larger invasion would produce widespread human suffering and diminish Russia’s standing," Biden reportedly told Putin. The Kremlin has not released its readout of Putin’s conversation with Biden by publication time.

The two presidents previously spoke at the end of December. Since then, the Russian military build-up in and around Ukraine has increased. U.S. officials have warned that Russia is now ready to strike whenever it wants.

Earlier in the day, Macron spoke with Putin for one hour and 40 minutes. According to the French readout, the presidents discussed a way to implement the Minsk Agreements and achieve conditions for security in Europe. Macron last met Putin face to face earlier in the week.

The second Minsk Agreements were signed after a successful Russian military offensive in February 2015, which forced Ukraine to confirm a document set to grant broad autonomy to Russian-occupied Donbas in return for Kyiv receiving control over its side of the border with Russia.

Macron relayed the concerns of his European allies to Putin and told him that "sincere dialogue is not compatible with escalation."

Meanwhile, according to the Kremlin, Putin tried to impress on Macron that Western leaders are reluctant to push Ukraine into signing the Minsk Agreements. Moscow continued to deny that it has an invasion planned for Ukraine, dismissing reports of a likely attack as "provocative speculations."

"These are accompanied by massive supplies of modern weaponry to Ukraine, thus creating conditions for possible aggressive actions by the Ukrainian military in Donbas," the Kremlin said.

An official in the French presidency told Reuters that Putin said nothing that indicated he was preparing to invade Ukraine.

Separately, the Kremlin said that Putin had highlighted a "lack of a substantive response from the U.S. and NATO to well-known Russian initiatives." This refers to Russia’s demands to stop NATO expansion and the deployment of strike weapon systems near its borders.

Amid warnings that an attack or invasion may begin within days, numerous countries moved to evacuate embassy staff and alert their citizens to leave Ukraine as soon as possible.

Artur Korniienko
Author: Artur Korniienko

Artur Korniienko is a culture writer at the Kyiv Independent. He previously reported on Ukrainian literature, art, music, film and social issues for the Kyiv Post, including the controversial Babyn Yar memorial and other development projects opposed by the community. In 2021, he ran a podcast about Ukrainian migrant workers for RFE/RL on the Vaclav Havel Fellowship in Prague. With a Master's in Journalism from the Ukrainian Catholic University, Korniienko had also worked as a freelance journalist and a TV correspondent.

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