Russia plays coy with Biden’s offer to meet with Putin amid tensions

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Russia on Wednesday turned a cold shoulder to President Biden’s ​proposal to meet with President Putin for an in-person summit as US ships steam to the Black Sea to counter Moscow’s increasing military presence in the region. ​

The White House said Biden extended the invite to Putin during a phone call Tuesday in which Biden warned the Russian leader not to violate the sovereignty of Ukraine and rebuked him for meddling in America’s elections. ​

But Moscow remained non-committal.

“It’s still too early to talk about this meeting in tangible terms. It’s a new proposal and it will be studied,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, adding that more talks would occur on the diplomatic level.

“The sides are not yet planning a range of topics to discuss, there isn’t yet any preparation for this meeting,” Peskov said.  

Feelings are still raw between the Cold War foes after Biden last month referred to Putin as a “killer” who would “pay a price” for the election interference, and Moscow responded by recalling its ambassador from Washington.

In Tuesday’s call, the White House said Biden “made clear that the United States will act firmly in defense of its national interests in response to Russia’s actions, such as cyber intrusions and election interference.”

Meanwhile, Russian foreign policy adviser Yuri Ushakov invited John Sullivan, the US ambassador to Moscow, to join talks on Wednesday, while warning that the Kremlin would respond harshly if the US took any “unfriendly steps,” such as imposing sanctions. 

Russia has been amassing troops and armored vehicles near the border with Crimea, which Putin illegally annexed in 2014, prompting sanctions from the West, and has moved warships and landing craft from the Caspian Sea to the Black Sea. 

In return, the US sent two ships — the USS Donald Cook and the USS Roosevelt — to the area and they are expected to arrive as soon as Wednesday.

The Russian Black Sea fleet held live-fire drills on Wednesday, and the frigate Admiral Grigorovich successfully launched a cruise missile, striking a surface target, the Russian news agency Tass reported. 

Earlier this week, two Russian ships, the Graivoron and Vyshny Volochyok, conducted drills in the Black Sea and destroyed targets in the air, the news agency reported.

At the same time, Ukraine’s military rehearsed repelling a tank and infantry attack on the border with Crimea in an area that has seen an escalation in fighting that has been ongoing since Russian forces began backing separatist forces after Putin annexed the peninsula. 

The Ukrainian military posted videos of tanks maneuvering and troops firing artillery guns. 

With Post wires

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