U.S. President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin

Biden Tentatively Agrees To Summit With Putin As U.S. Says Invasion Could Come ‘Very Soon’

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WASHINGTON — U.S. President Joe Biden has tentatively agreed to a summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the coming days as he seeks to deter the Kremlin leader from invading Ukraine.

Biden would meet Putin after February 24 talks between Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov “if an invasion hasn’t happened,” White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a February 20 statement.

The idea of a bilateral meeting was proposed by French President Emmanuel Macron, who spoke separately to both leaders earlier in the day.

No specific date or location has been announced for the summit. Biden and Putin met for the first time as the respective heads of their nation’s in June in Geneva. That summit was prompted by a smaller Russian military buildup near Ukraine in the spring.

Prior to the summit, Biden will participate in a virtual meeting with his counterparts from the Group of Seven (G7) on February 24 to discuss the crisis provoked by Russia’s troop buildup. The G7 includes the United States, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Canada, Italy, and Japan.

The U.S. president said February 18 that he was “convinced” that Putin had made a decision to invade Ukraine and that it could happen in the coming days. Biden said the United States and European allies would impose severe sanctions on Russia if Putin went ahead with the attack.

Russia currently has more than 150,000 combat-ready troops surrounding Ukraine.

The Kremlin is seeking to prevent Ukraine from someday joining NATO and pull the country firmly back into its sphere of influence.

Russia has repeatedly denied it intends to invade Ukraine and claimed to have begun pulling back some forces. The United States and NATO have said they see no signs of a partial pullback.

In the February 20 statement, Psaki reiterated the dire message, saying that “Russia appears to be continuing preparations for a full-scale assault on Ukraine very soon.”

The United States has warned in recent weeks that Russia could use a “false flag” operation in eastern Ukraine to justify an invasion of the country.

Russia-backed separatists have been fighting government forces in two provinces in eastern Ukraine for nearly eight years.

While the two sides have agreed to multiple ceasefires, European monitors have registered a surge in shelling over the past few days in eastern Ukraine that Western officials blame on the separatists.

Putin has blamed Ukraine for the increase in fighting, raising concerns he could use it as an excuse to invade.

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