President Biden called on Russian President Vladimir Putin to reduce its military build-up along its border with Ukraine and floated an in-person meeting in the months ahead during a Tuesday phone call — as a Russian foreign minister warned the US Navy to avoid the region “for their own good.”
The call, a readout of which was released by the White House, came less than a month after Biden branded Putin a “killer” who would “pay a price” for alleged Russian interference in US elections.
During Tuesday’s call, 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,” according to a White House readout.
The commander-in-chief also “emphasized the United States’ unwavering commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” and “voiced our concerns over the sudden Russian military build-up in Crimea and on Ukraine’s borders, calling on Russia to de-escalate tensions.”
To help lower the temperature, Biden suggested a possible summit in the coming months in a neutral third country.
The push for peace came hours after Kremlin Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov warned the US to turn back two Navy warships currently en route to the Black Sea and the area around Crimea.
“The United States is our adversary and does everything it can to undermine Russia’s position on the world stage,” Ryabkov said Tuesday, according to Russian media outlets. “We do not see any other elements in their approach. Those are our conclusions.
“We warn the United States that it will be better for them to stay far away from Crimea and our Black Sea coast,” he continued. “It will be for their own good.”
Russia annexed the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine in 2014, and now uses it as a strategic military position and base for its Black Sea naval fleet.
The Kremlin has recently deployed additional ground forces to its border with eastern Ukraine, where Russian-backed separatists have been locked in a bloody, years-long battle with Ukrainian government troops.
The Pentagon has declined to discuss its reasons for moving firepower into the region, but noted that the Navy regularly patrols the Black Sea.
But Ryabkov remained unconvinced.
“There is absolutely nothing for American ships to be doing near our shores, this is purely a provocative action,” he was quoted as saying in Russian media. “Provocative in the direct sense of the word: they are testing our strength, playing on our nerves. They will not succeed.”
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