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Biden is always ready to talk to Putin, says Blinken

WASHINGTON — Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken said Sunday that President Biden remains open to speaking to Russian President Vladimir V. Putin despite the U.S. government’s assessment that Putin has already decided to invade the Ukraine.

“We believe President Putin has made the decision, but 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 deter the President. Putin to pursue this,” Mr. Blinken said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

Mr. Biden and Mr. Putin last spoke to each other for an hour by phone on February 12. During that call, Mr. Biden warned Mr. Putin that another invasion of Ukraine would come at “swift and severe” costs for Russia. Mr. Biden has promised to impose tough economic sanctions on Russia if Mr. Putin carries out an invasion, although Beijing, which has strengthened its ties with Moscow, could help ease these sanctions.

Mr Biden said on Friday he believed Russia would invade Ukraine within days. In recent weeks, the Russian military has deployed more than 150,000 troops around Ukraine, positioning them along the country’s western border with Ukraine, on the Crimean peninsula that Russia seized from Ukraine. in 2014, and in Belarus, which has a pro-Moscow government. US officials describe it as the largest military build-up in Europe since World War II.

Mr. Blinken said on Sunday that Russia was still taking all the measures expected by the United States for what could be a violent and large-scale incursion into Ukraine.

“As we’ve described, everything leading up to the actual invasion appears to be taking place,” he said, hours after returning from the Munich Security Conference, where he and the deputy President Kamala Harris tried to rally nations to put pressure on Russia. to defuse the crisis.

He also criticized Russia’s decision to keep troops in Belarus beyond this weekend when joint military exercises between the allies were due to end. The Belarusian Defense Ministry announced on Sunday that the countries were extending the exercises. US officials have warned that the exercises could serve as a cover for Russia to position combat forces closer to the Ukrainian capital, Kiev.

“Now they are justifying the continuation of the exercises which they believe will end now,” Mr Blinken said, describing it as part of Russia “continuing to escalate tensions”.

Mr. Blinken and Mr. Biden said that Russia would try to create a pretext for an invasion of Ukraine, possibly in the form of violent “false flag” operations that Moscow would attribute to the Ukrainian military, and would wage a disinformation campaign to present justification for action. Russian-backed insurgents in eastern Ukraine have intensified their artillery shelling of Ukrainian forces and civilian areas in recent days. Pro-Russian officials who control the city of Donetsk have ordered residents to evacuate, claiming without evidence that the Ukrainian army is about to attack.

The State Department said Thursday that Blinken had accepted an invitation from Sergei V. Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, to meet this week in Europe. The pair struck a conciliatory tone when they met in Geneva on January 21. But Mr Putin continued to rally his military forces around Ukraine in the weeks that followed.

nytimes Gt

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