International

Biden to press Putin amid war fears

Act of resistance: Ukrainians protesting against escalation of tension with Russia in central Kiev on Saturday.

Act of resistance: Ukrainians protesting against escalation of tension with Russia in central Kiev on Saturday.

U.S. President Joe Biden prepared to sound out Russia’s Vladimir Putin on Saturday and Ukraine urged its citizens not to panic after Washington warned that an all-out invasion could begin “any day”.

Weeks of tensions that have seen Russia surround its western neighbour with more than 100,000 troops intensified when the Kremlin launched its biggest naval drills in years across the Black Sea.

 

The exercises off the coast of Ukraine’s Odessa added urgency to a hastily arranged call on Saturday between Mr. Biden and Mr. Putin aimed at defusing one of the gravest crises in East-West relations since the Cold War.

Mr. Putin began his afternoon by holding talks with France's Emmanuel Macron that the French presidency said lasted 100 minutes.

No details were immediately released but the French leader has spearheaded EU efforts to ease fears of a major war breaking out in eastern Europe.

Russia on Saturday added to the ominous tone by pulling some of its diplomatic staff out of Ukraine.

The Foreign Ministry in Moscow said its decision was prompted by fears of “possible provocations from the Kiev regime”.

 

But Washington and a host of European countries cited the growing threat of a Russian invasion as they called on their citizens to leave Ukraine as soon possible.

Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands became the latest European countries to advise their citizens to leave Ukraine while the US embassy ordered “most” of its Kiev staff to leave.

The prospect of frightened Westerners fleeing their country prompted Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry to issue an appeal to its citizens to “remain calm”.

Washington on Friday issued its most dire warning yet that Russia had assembled enough forces to launch a serious assault.

“Our view that military action could occur any day now, and could occur before the end of the Olympics, is only growing in terms of its robustness,” U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan warned.

U.S. military assessments had earlier said the Kremlin may want to wait for the Beijing Winter Olympic Games to end on February 20 before launching an offensive so as not to offend Russia's ally China.

Mr. Sullivan stopped short on Friday of saying that the U.S. has concluded that Mr. Putin has made the decision to attack.

But some U.S. and German media cited intelligence sources and officials as saying that a war could begin at some point after Mr. Putin concludes talks with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Moscow on Tuesday.


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Printable version | Jun 24, 2022 1:46:53 am | https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/biden-to-press-putin-amid-war-fears/article38420469.ece