WASHINGTON – Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken said on Sunday that President Biden remains open to talking with Russian President Vladimir V. Putin despite the US government’s assessment that Putin has decided to invade Ukraine.
Blinken said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
Mr. Biden and Mr. Putin last spoke for an hour by phone on Feb. 12. In that call, Mr. Biden warned Mr. Putin that a new invasion of Ukraine would result in costs “quickly and serious” for Russia. Mr. Biden has promised to impose harsh economic sanctions on Russia if Mr. Putin mounts an invasion, although Beijing, which has strengthened ties with Moscow, could help ease the tensions. that penalty.
On Friday, Mr. Biden said he believes Russia will invade Ukraine within the next few days. In recent weeks, the Russian military has deployed more than 150,000 troops around Ukraine, located along the country’s western border with Ukraine, on the Crimean Peninsula, which Russia seized from Ukraine in 2014 and in Belarus, country with a pro-Moscow government. American officials describe it as the largest troop increase in Europe since World War II.
Blinken said on Sunday that Russia was still taking all the steps the United States would expect for what could be a violent and large-scale attack on Ukraine.
“As we have described, everything leading up to the invasion really seems to be working,” he said, hours after returning from the Munich Security Conference, where he and Vice President Kamala Harris attempted to gather nations to put pressure on Russia. to defuse the crisis.
He also criticized Russia’s decision to keep troops in Belarus after this weekend, when joint exercises between the allies were scheduled to end. Belarusian Ministry of Defense announced on Sunday that the nations expanded the exercises. US officials have warned that the drills could be a cover for Russia to place combat forces closer to the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv.
“Now they’re justifying continuing the exercises they say will end now,” Blinken said, describing it as part of Russia’s “continued escalation of tensions.” straight”.
Mr. Blinken and Mr. Biden have said that Russia will try to create a pretext for an invasion of Ukraine, possibly in the form of “false flags” violent activities that Moscow will label the Ukrainian military, and conduct an intelligence campaign. misinformation to present. justification for action. Russian-backed rebels in eastern Ukraine have increased their shelling of Ukrainian forces and civilian areas in recent days. Pro-Russian officials who control the city of Donetsk have ordered residents to evacuate, and said there is no evidence that Ukrainian troops are about to attack.
The State Department said on Thursday that Mr. Blinken accepted an invitation Sergey V. Lavrov, Russian Foreign Minister, will meet this week in Europe. The two struck a conciliatory tone when they met in Geneva on January 21. But Mr. Putin proceeded to bolster his military forces around Ukraine in the weeks that followed.
https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/20/world/europe/biden-blinken-russia.html Biden still available to talk to Putin, says Blinken