Biden warns Putin of ‘severe sanctions’ in telephone call

US President Joe Biden said Friday he warned his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, of “severe sanctions” if Moscow goes ahead with aggression against Ukraine. 

“I made it clear to President Putin that we will have severe sanctions, we will increase our presence in Europe, with NATO allies,” Biden told reporters in Wilmington, Delaware.

When asked if he got the sense that the Russian leader might not invade Ukraine during his call Thursday, Biden said Putin agreed that the US and Russia would have three conferences in Europe next month.

“He laid out some of his concerns about NATO and the United States and Europe, we laid out ours,” said Biden.

During the call, Biden urged Putin to de-escalate tensions with Ukraine and “made clear that the United States and its allies and partners will respond decisively if Russia further invades Ukraine,” according to a White House statement.

In addition, Biden will speak with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky “to reaffirm U.S. support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, discuss Russia’s military build-up on Ukraine’s borders, and review preparations for upcoming diplomatic engagements to help de-escalate the situation in the region,” said a White House official.

Russia has recently amassed tens of thousands of troops near Ukraine’s border. The move has prompted concerns among NATO allies that Moscow could be planning another military offensive against its ex-Soviet neighbor.

The US and its European allies are accusing Russia of trying to destabilize the country by providing military support to separatist forces in Ukraine’s eastern regions.

The first call between the two leaders took place December 7.

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