- Biden-Putin call lasts an hour, no breakthrough seen
- Kremlin says no ‘substantial answer’ on key concerns
- More nations tell citizens in Ukraine to get out now
- Thousands march in Kyiv, chanting ‘Glory to Ukraine’
WASHINGTON/MOSCOW, Feb 12 (Reuters) – U.S. President Joe Biden told Russia’s Vladimir Putin on Saturday that the West would respond decisively to any invasion of Ukraine, adding such a step would produce widespread suffering and isolate Moscow.
In the latest effort to manage growing hostility, the two men spoke by phone for an hour a day after Washington and its allies warned that the Russian military, which has 100,000 troops massed near Ukraine, could invade at any moment. Moscow has dismissed those warnings as “hysteria.”
Neither side said there had been any breakthroughs. A senior Biden administration official said the call was professional and substantive, but that there was no fundamental change.
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The Kremlin said Putin told Biden Washington has failed to take Russia’s main concerns into account, and it had received no “substantial answer” on key elements including NATO’s expansion and the deployment of offensive forces to Ukraine.
The senior Biden administration official said it was unclear whether Putin was committed to diplomacy even as he agreed to stay in touch with Biden.
The call took place as Israel, Portugal and Belgium joined the list of countries that have urged their citizens to leave Ukraine immediately.
The U.S. State Department ordered most of its embassy staff to leave Ukraine. The Pentagon said it was withdrawing about 150 military trainers.
Australia said on Sunday it was evacuating its embassy in Kyiv, with Prime Minister Scott Morrison calling on China to speak up for Ukraine and not remain “chillingly silent” as Russia massed military forces on its border. read more
Morrison’s comments to a news conference followed criticism by China of a meeting of the U.S., Australian, Japanese and Indian foreign ministers last week in Melbourne. read more
“The coalition of autocracies that we are seeing, seeking to bully other countries, is not something that Australia ever takes a light position on,” Morrison said.
Biden was due to compare notes with French President Emmanuel Macron, who spoke with both Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on Saturday, according to the White House. Biden’s top military and diplomatic officials held calls with their Russian counterparts.
Putin also spoke with Alexander Lukashenko, leader of Ukraine’s northern neighbor Belarus, which is engaged in major joint military drills with Russia.
After Macron’s call with Putin, a French presidency official said there were no indications from what Putin told Macron that Russia is preparing an offensive against Ukraine.