Biden and Putin to speak after Moscow requests phone call

Two leaders to talk on Thursday ahead of bilateral talks taking place in Geneva in the New Year

President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin at a June 16, 2021 meeting in Geneva, Switzerland. AP
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US President Joe Biden and Russian leader Vladimir Putin will hold a phone call on Thursday afternoon, the White House announced, as Washington continues to work with allies on a common response to Russia's military build-up on the Ukraine border.

A senior US administration official said Moscow had requested the call.

"President Biden will speak with President Putin by telephone at the request of the Russian side," the US official told reporters on Wednesday, noting that Mr Biden immediately accepted the request.

“When President Biden asked to speak with President Putin over the course of 2021, President Putin said, 'yes, let's talk', and when President Putin says I'm interested in touching base and having a phone call, President Biden says 'yes',” the official said.

The US and Russia are scheduled to hold bilateral talks on January 10 in Geneva. Washington has warned Moscow against any threats or missteps against Kiev or elsewhere, as Russia has deployed tens of thousands of troops along its border with eastern Ukraine.

US National Security Council spokesperson Emily Horne said Thursday's discussion will include "a range of topics, including upcoming diplomatic engagements with Russia".

"The Biden administration continues to engage in extensive diplomacy with our European allies and partners, consulting and coordinating on a common approach in response to Russia’s military build-up on the border with Ukraine," Ms Horne said in a statement.

The senior US official said Mr Biden will “make clear when he speaks with President Putin that we are prepared for diplomacy… but we are also prepared to respond if Russia advances with a further invasion of Ukraine", adding that Washington is seeking a reduction in Russian troops on the border.

"We would like to see obviously, a reduction in that buildup and the return of forces to their regular training areas or their long-term deployment areas,” the official said.

Following the call, Mr Biden will brief his European counterparts and “will stay in close touch” with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Wednesday spoke with Mr Zelenskiy, the US State Department said.

Mr Zelenskiy tweeted afterwards, saying he was "assured of full US support for Ukraine in countering Russian aggression".

The State Department's readout of the call said the same, noting that the leaders "discussed efforts to peacefully resolve the conflict in eastern Ukraine and upcoming diplomatic engagements with Russia".

Mr Blinken also spoke with his French, German and British counterparts on Wednesday, when they discussed the "importance of continued co-ordination to deter any further Russian aggression against Ukraine", the State Department said.

They also "affirmed the consensus among allies and partners to impose massive consequences and severe costs on Russia for such actions."

Over the last few months, reports and satellite imagery show Russia has amassed tens of thousands of troops and military hardware along Ukraine's border, bringing about concerns of a ground invasion.

Thursday's call will be the second since a video call Mr Biden and Mr Putin held earlier in December. The leaders also met in person in Geneva in the summer.

Updated: April 27, 2022, 1:37 PM