Biden 'prepared to meet Putin' to break deadlock over Ukraine invasion fears

Historic peace talks are set to take place.

1/22/2022 9:00:00 PM

Historic peace talks are set to take place.

Diplomats desperately want to defuse tensions with Russia after it amassed 106,000 soldiers along the border with Ukraine.

Allied diplomats have ramped up pressure onA ‘frozen conflict’ between Ukrainian forces and Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine has persisted since Russia invaded Crimea and carved it off from Ukraine in 2014.Besides barring Ukraine, he also wants Nato to remove all its forces from Bulgaria, Romania and other ex-communist countries that joined after 1997.

Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov gave nothing away of his view on the talks (Picture: AFP)‘If it proves useful and productive for the two presidents to meet, to talk, to engage, to try to carry things forward, I think we’re fully prepared to do that.

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Ukraine . US secretary of state Antony Blinken made the proposal after meeting Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov for 90 minutes at what he called a ‘critical moment’ in ongoing talks. Allied diplomats have ramped up pressure on Russia to send back the 106,000 soldiers it has massed along the border with Ukraine, but Moscow says it won’t budge unless Nato promises never to let the former Soviet state join. A ‘frozen conflict’ between Ukrainian forces and Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine has persisted since Russia invaded Crimea and carved it off from Ukraine in 2014. Waxing and waning tensions have seen varying levels of Russian military presence on the border over the years, followed by deals for Nato allies to supply military hardware to Ukraine. But officials say Putin is closer than ever to another invasion after he threatened a ‘military-technical response’ if the West does not agree to a number of proposals. Besides barring Ukraine, he also wants Nato to remove all its forces from Bulgaria, Romania and other ex-communist countries that joined after 1997. Mr Blinken said he would send Russia a written response to its proposals and suggested meeting again shortly afterwards. Antony Blinken, left, said there was ‘no breakthrough’ after talks with his counterpart (Picture: AP) Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov gave nothing away of his view on the talks (Picture: AFP) He said his counterpart repeated Moscow’s insistence that it has no plans to invade, but the US and its allies remain sceptical. He added: ‘We didn’t expect any major breakthroughs to happen today, but I believe we are now on a clearer path to understanding each other’s positions. ‘If it proves useful and productive for the two presidents to meet, to talk, to engage, to try to carry things forward, I think we’re fully prepared to do that. Mr Lavrov described the talks as ‘constructive and useful’ but said he ‘can’t say whether we are on the right track or not’ until he receives Mr Blinken’s letter. To view this video please enable JavaScript, and consider upgrading to a web browser that supports HTML5 video The US and Europe have sought to provide a united front and promised severe economic sanctions if an invasion goes ahead, as well as providing military support to the Ukrainian army. The UK has sent anti-tank missiles to Ukraine, along with military experts to train soldiers in how to operate them. Foreign secretary Liz Truss, who is in Australia for defence talks, said on Friday: ‘If there is an incursion by Russia into Ukraine, it would come at a massive cost. ‘We are prepared to put very severe sanctions in place, we are also working to support Ukraine in terms of defensive capability, what I would say as well is that dealing with this immediate situation is of course an absolute priority. What is going on with Russia and Ukraine? Ever since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Kremlin has been concerned about the West’s military expansion into what it sees as Russia’s backyard. Nato, the US-dominated military alliance which the UK and the majority of European nations are members of, has expanded over the last two decades to cover eastern European and Baltic states. Ukraine is recognised as an ‘aspiring member’ and has been growing institutionally closer to the West ever since the 2013 Euromaidan demonstrations led to the pro-Russian government being toppled by protesters who favour deeper ties with Europe. President Vladimir Putin regards Ukraine - which was part of the Soviet Union until 1991 - as a ‘red line’ and has called on the US and Nato to provide guarantees that it won’t become a member, something the West won’t do. Russia wants to see Nato returned to something closer to its pre-1997 formation before eastern countries on its border joined, as well as the removal of military capabilities from places like Poland and Romania. The situation between Russia and Ukraine is complicated by the historical and cultural ties between the two countries. Russian is widely spoken in Ukraine and the country is divided between people who feel more European and those who feel more Russian, especially in the country’s eastern areas. President Putin regards Ukraine as part of ‘greater Russia’ and has written and spoken in the past about reuniting the Russian and Ukrainian people. In 2014, Russia responded to the fall of the pro-Russian government in Kyiv by annexing Crimea. The peninsula to the south of Ukraine is still recognised as part of the country by the United Nations. Pro-Russian sepratist militants seized control of other areas in the country’s east. Ukraine estimates 7% of its territory is illegally occupied by Russia. Armed conflict has rumbled on in parts of Ukraine ever since but a larger invasion appears to be closer now than ever before after Russia amassed huge military resources close to the border. President Putin insists Russia is not planning to invade and it remains unclear whether the troop movement is a prelude to war or whether the Kremlin is using it to force guarantees on Nato expansion from the West. Washington has threatened Moscow with a ‘united, swift and severe response’ which would see it cut off financially and diplomatically from the West. Get in touch with our news team by emailing us at