Biden, Putin to speak amid Ukraine tension
US President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin are set to speak, the White House says, as Washington crafts a common response to Russia's military build-up on the Ukraine border with European allies.
The two leaders will discuss a range of topics on Thursday, including upcoming security talks between the countries and a tense situation in Europe, White House National Security Council spokesperson Emily Horne said in a statement.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Reuters the call was planned for "late Thursday evening," without elaborating.
Horne said Biden had spoken with leaders across Europe about the situation on the Ukraine border, while Biden administration officials were in touch with NATO, the European Union and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
Moscow has alarmed the West by massing tens of thousands of troops near Ukraine in the past two months, following its seizure of Ukraine's Crimea peninsula in 2014 and its backing of separatists fighting Kyiv troops in eastern Ukraine.
Russia denies planning to attack Ukraine and says it has the right to move its troops on its own soil as it likes.
Moscow, worried by what it says is the West's re-arming of Ukraine, has said it wants legally-binding guarantees NATO will not expand further eastwards, and that certain offensive weapons will not be deployed to Ukraine or other neighbouring countries.
US concerns have not ebbed in recent weeks, according to a senior Biden administration official. Other US officials said that despite a report over the weekend that Russia would be pulling back about 10,000 troops from its border with Ukraine, they had seen little evidence to support that so far.
Biden is likely to reiterate during the call that the US will take swift economic action against Russia in the case of an invasion. They will also reinforce the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation in such a case.
But the US president has been pushing direct diplomacy as an alternative.
The Biden administration has been in deep talks with Ukraine as well as a host of NATO allies, including those bordering Russia, according to Horne, the White House spokesperson.
Biden will likely speak with Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskiy soon, another official said. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with the Ukrainian leader on Wednesday and expressed "unwavering support for Ukraine's independence," according to a spokesman.