Joe Biden vows to make “very, very difficult” any Russian invasion of Ukraine

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Joe Biden said he would make it “very, very difficult” for Russia to launch an invasion of Ukraine, which has warned that a full-scale attack could be scheduled for next month.

Washington and Kiev claim Moscow has massed troops near Ukraine’s borders and accuse Russia of planning an invasion.

The Kremlin denies the allegations and said on Friday that a video call would take place next week between President Vladimir Putin and Biden.

The US president told reporters that he was putting in place “the most comprehensive and meaningful set of initiatives to make it very, very difficult for Mr. Putin to move forward and do what the people fear it will do ”.

Moscow took Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 and has since supported separatists fighting Kiev in the east of the country. The conflict has claimed more than 13,000 lives.

“The most likely time to prepare for an escalation will be the end of January,” Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov told parliament in Kiev on Friday.

The minister said that a “winter training period” had started in Russia and that Moscow had already launched exercises near Ukrainian territory.

He estimated that Russia had around 100,000 troops near the Ukrainian border.

On the front line in eastern Ukraine, government troops have declared themselves ready to repel any Russian assault.

“Our task is simple: not to let the enemy enter our country,” a soldier named Andriy, 29, told AFP, smoking in a trench near the front town of Svitlodarsk. .

“All of our guys are ready to hold them back. This is our land, we will protect it until the end, ”added another soldier, Yevgen, 24.

Kremlin foreign policy adviser Yuri Ushakov told reporters that a date had been agreed for the Putin-Biden video summit, but that it would not be announced until final details of the talks were also released. fixed.

The United States said the call was scheduled, but did not confirm a date.

When asked if he spoke to Putin on Friday morning, Biden shouted “no” as he left the Washington jobs data press conference.

Despite increased contact between the two rivals since Putin and Biden first met at a summit in Geneva in June, tensions remain high.

Besides the Ukrainian conflict, Russia and the United States continue to argue over cyber attacks and the manning of their embassies, after several waves of diplomatic expulsions.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba told AFP on Friday that he rejected any attempt to get him to abandon his NATO membership plan.

Moscow wants to see the end of NATO’s eastward expansion, after much of Eastern Europe joined the alliance after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Agreeing to abandon his plan to join the alliance “is not an option,” Kuleba said on the sidelines of an OSCE meeting in Stockholm.

“I reject the idea that we have to guarantee Russia anything. I insist on the fact that it is Russia which must guarantee that it will not continue its aggression against any country ”, he declared.

NATO officially opened the door to Ukraine’s membership in 2008, although no progress has been made since.

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