Putin, Biden agree in precept to summit as Ukraine tensions soar

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In this file photo taken on June 16, 2021 US President Joe Biden (R) meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) at the ´Villa la Grange´ in Geneva.-AFP
On this file picture taken on June 16, 2021 US President Joe Biden (R) meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) on the ´Villa la Grange´ in Geneva.-AFP

KYIV: Russian President Vladimir Putin and his US counterpart Joe Biden have agreed to a summit — to be held provided that Moscow doesn’t invade Ukraine, France introduced Monday following a frantic new spherical of diplomacy to avert an all-out conflict.

Each leaders have mentioned sure in precept to the summit, proposed by French President Emmanuel Macron, his workplace mentioned, with the White Home confirming Biden’s willingness, although it was notably cautious.

A senior administration official advised AFP: “Timing to be decided. Format to be decided so it’s all fully notional.”

The Elysee added that the summit can be expanded to “related stakeholders” and that preparations would begin between Russia and america on Thursday.

The doable breakthrough got here after Washington warned of an imminent invasion and Ukraine and Russia blamed one another for a spike in shellings on the entrance line separating Kyiv’s forces from Moscow-backed separatists.

The bombardments have despatched Ukrainians fleeing to cellars and different shelters, whereas some civilians have been evacuated.

In its personal assertion, the White Home warned that it was nonetheless prepared “to impose swift and extreme penalties” ought to Russia invade.

“And presently, Russia seems to be persevering with preparations for a full-scale assault on Ukraine very quickly,” US press secretary Jen Psaki mentioned.

Washington and different Western capitals say that Russia has massed greater than 150,000 troops on Ukraine’s borders and is able to launch a full-scale assault.

Moscow denies any intention to invade its neighbour, however has demanded that the NATO alliance completely rule out Ukraine’s bid for membership and known as for the withdrawal of Western forces deployed in jap Europe for the reason that finish of the Chilly Struggle.

Macron-Putin calls

The announcement of the summit got here moments after Macron held his second marathon name with Putin of the day.

Throughout their first, 105-minute dialogue, Putin blamed the rise in violence on the entrance line on “provocations carried out by the Ukrainian safety forces”, in line with a Kremlin assertion.

Putin repeated a name for “america and NATO to take Russian calls for for safety ensures critically”.

However Macron’s workplace additionally mentioned the 2 had agreed on “the necessity to favour a diplomatic resolution to the continuing disaster and to do every part to attain one”.

The second time the pair spoke, late Sunday night, it was for an hour, the French presidency mentioned. The announcement of the summit got here shortly after.

Earlier, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken mentioned Russia remained “on the brink” of invading Ukraine.

US media cited nameless sources as saying that Washington obtained intelligence final week displaying the Kremlin has given troops the order to assault. The White Home, Pentagon and State Division didn’t verify the studies when requested by AFP.

Satellite tv for pc pictures from a US firm additionally confirmed new Russian troop deployments alongside the border.

Macron additionally spoke with Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelensky, who known as for a direct ceasefire and the resumption of talks.

“We stand for intensifying the peace course of,” Zelensky tweeted, including that he had knowledgeable Macron about “new provocative shelling” on the entrance line between Ukrainian forces and Russian-backed rebels.

That risky entrance line has seen a “dramatic improve” in ceasefire violations, screens from the Group for Safety and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) have mentioned.

Lots of of artillery and mortar assaults had been reported in current days, in a battle that has rumbled on for eight years and claimed greater than 14,000 lives.

‘Shelling once more’

AFP reporters heard extra bombardments in a single day near the entrance line between authorities forces and the Moscow-backed rebels who maintain components of the jap districts of Lugansk and Donetsk.

In Zolote, a frontline village within the Lugansk area, an AFP reporter discovered residents hiding in an earth-floored cellar roughly furnished when the separatist battle erupted in 2014.

“These weeks they began shelling tougher. Now they’re shelling once more,” mentioned 33-year-old handyman Oleksiy Kovalenko.

In Moscow in the meantime, the US embassy warned Individuals of potential assaults in public locations in Russia.

Screws tighten

Earlier, fears of escalation mounted after Belarus introduced that Russian forces would stay on its soil after Sunday’s scheduled finish to joint drills, additional tightening the screws on Ukraine.

Moscow had beforehand mentioned the 30,000 troops it has in Belarus had been finishing up readiness drills with its ally, to be completed by Sunday, permitting the Russians to go again to their bases.

However Belarus mentioned it had determined with Russia to “proceed inspections”, citing elevated navy exercise on their shared borders and an alleged “escalation” in east Ukraine.

Occupied enclave

The Moscow-backed separatists have accused Ukraine of planning an offensive into their enclave, regardless of the large Russian navy build-up on the frontier.

Kyiv and Western capitals ridicule this concept, and accuse Moscow of trying to impress Ukraine and of plotting to manufacture incidents to offer a pretext for Russian intervention.

The insurgent areas have made comparable claims about Ukraine’s forces and ordered a basic mobilisation, evacuating civilians into neighbouring Russian territory.

“My husband advised me: take the youngsters and go!” 31-year-old nurse Anna Tikhonova advised AFP from a camp at Vesselo-Voznessenka, Russia.

She and her youngsters had fled from Gorlovka, Ukraine, to the sound of gunfire, she mentioned.

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