Biden promises Ukraine’s Zelensky the US will ‘respond decisively’ if Russia further invades


US President Joe Biden and his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky spoke by phone on Sunday amid growing fears that a Russian military buildup near the border with its pro-Western neighbor heralds an invasion. 

The show of US support for Ukraine comes days after Biden warned Russian President Vladimir Putin of severe consequences if Moscow invades the former Soviet country in a separate phone call earlier last week.

‘President Biden made clear that the United States and its allies and partners will respond decisively if Russia further invades Ukraine,’ White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement after the call.

She added that both Biden and Zelensky expressed support for continued efforts between Russia and the US and its allies to find a diplomatic resolution. 

‘President Biden underscored the commitment of the United States and its allies and partners to the principle of “nothing about you without you.” He reaffirmed the United States’ commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,’ Psaki said.

‘He also expressed support for confidence-building measures to de-escalate tensions in Donbas and active diplomacy to advance the implementation of the Minsk Agreements, in support of the Normandy Format.’ 

Biden spoke with Putin early last week

He's now speaking with Zelensky by phone on Sunday afternoon

Biden and Zelensky are due to speak at 3 p.m. today, days after the US president’s phone call with Vladimir Putin

The Minsk resolutions were brought about as ways to end the conflict in Ukraine’s Donbas region, though they failed to cause any meaningful progress. 

Meanwhile some 100,000 Russian troops are massed near the eastern border of the country, where Putin already seized the Crimea region in 2014.

The Russian president is accused of fomenting a pro-Russian separatist war which erupted that same year in the east, following Ukraine’s democratic revolution. 

Ukrainian officials have begged the United States and other Western government for stronger action to deter what they fear is a certain Russian invasion. 

Using some of his most direct language yet, Biden said Friday, ‘I’m not going to negotiate here in public, but we made it clear he cannot — I’ll emphasize, cannot — invade Ukraine.’

Vladimir Putin's aggressive military buildup on Ukraine's border has alarmed officials in Kyiv and much of the global community

Vladimir Putin’s aggressive military buildup on Ukraine’s border has alarmed officials in Kyiv and much of the global community

The US leader added, in remarks to reporters during a holiday stay in Delaware, that he had ‘made it clear to President Putin that we will have severe sanctions, we will increase our presence in Europe, with NATO allies’ if Russia invades Ukraine.

The White House said ahead of the Sunday phone call that Biden will ‘reaffirm US support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, discuss Russia’s military build-up on Ukraine’s borders, and review preparations for upcoming diplomatic engagements to help de-escalate the situation in the region.’

Zelensky tweeted on Friday that he was ‘looking forward’ to speaking with Biden and reiterated the president’s previous promise to keep Ukraine at the negotiating table for any decisions regarding its sovereignty and wellbeing. 

‘As we have agreed with our Strategic Partner [the United States], nothing about [Ukraine] without [Ukraine]. Look forward to talking again with @POTUS this Sunday to coordinate our steps for the sake of peace in Ukraine and security in Europe,’ Zelensky wrote.  

Biden warned Putin on Thursday against invading Ukraine, while the Kremlin leader said anti-Moscow sanctions would be a ‘colossal mistake.’

After a 50-minute phone call — their second in just over three weeks — both presidents indicated support for further diplomacy.

Zelensky said he was looking forward to speaking with Biden on Friday

Zelensky said he was looking forward to speaking with Biden on Friday

President Biden spoke to President Putin of Russia for 50 minutes on Thursday afternoon. White House officials said the conversation was requested by Putin

President Biden spoke to President Putin of Russia for 50 minutes on Thursday afternoon. White House officials said the conversation was requested by Putin

An image released by the Russian Ministry of Defense shows units of the anti-aircraft missile brigade during an exercise in the Kursk region, which borders Ukraine, at the end of December

An image released by the Russian Ministry of Defense shows units of the anti-aircraft missile brigade during an exercise in the Kursk region, which borders Ukraine, at the end of December

America has been warning for weeks that Putin appears to be readying tens of thousands of troops, tanks and artillery pieces to invade Ukraine, but the Kremlin has insisted it is merely a defense force - until now (pictured, Russian forces currently massed in border regions)

America has been warning for weeks that Putin appears to be readying tens of thousands of troops, tanks and artillery pieces to invade Ukraine, but the Kremlin has insisted it is merely a defense force – until now (pictured, Russian forces currently massed in border regions) 

Putin was ‘pleased’ overall with the talks, foreign policy adviser Yury Ushakov told reporters.

A senior US official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the tone ‘was serious and substantive.’

But there was no disguising the depth of disagreement — or the dangerously high stakes on the fringes of eastern Europe. 

Washington and its European allies accuse Russia of threatening Ukraine with a new invasion.

Moscow describes the troop presence as protection against the expansion of NATO, although Ukraine has not been offered membership in the military alliance.

High-ranking US and Russian officials are due to sit down on January 9 and 10 in Geneva to discuss the crisis.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke Friday with NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg; afterwards, Blinken urged Russia to ‘engage meaningfully’ in the upcoming talks on the tense standoff between Moscow and Kiev.

Stoltenberg said that NATO was ‘united’ and ‘prepared for dialogue.’



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