Biden to hold talks to reassure Ukraine president as he warns Russia it ‘cannot invade’

Following a recent phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Joe Biden will speak with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky to reaffirm US support for its sovereignty as Russia builds up its troop presence along its border.

The US president, who is in Delaware for New Year’s Eve, will speak with Mr Zelensky on 2 January to discuss Ukraine’s “sovereignty and territorial integrity” as well as “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,” according to the White House.

Senior US and Russian officials will meet in Geneva in the coming weeks before a meeting of the Russia-NATO Council on 12 January and negotiations at the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe in Vienna on 13 January.

The president’s call with his Ukraine counterpart follows a nearly hour-long call with Mr Putin on Thursday, which came at Mr Putin’s request.

During the call, Mr Biden “urged Russia 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 White House press secretary Jen Psaki.

Asked whether he believes Mr Putin is more likely to invade Ukraine following their phone call, Mr Biden told reporters on Friday that the Russian president “laid out some of his concerns about Nato and the United States and Europe” and “we laid out ours.”

“I made it clear that they only could work if he de-escalated,” Mr Biden said, according to pool reports. “Well, I always expect to negotiate and make progress.”

Asked whether Russia would face sanctions if it maintained its troops along Ukraine’s border, he said he will “not negotiate here in public but we made it clear he cannot, I’ll emphasise, cannot invade Ukraine.”

Mr Putin has warned that new sanctions “would be a colossal mistake that would entail grave consequences” and lead to “a complete rupture of relations” between the US and Russia, according to Russian foreign affairs adviser Yuri Ushakov.

The Russian president has reiterated its demands for a commitment to exclude Ukraine from Nato and to rule out eastward military expansion, which the White House has rejected.