US President Biden plans to speak with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Saturday, a person familiar with the matter said, as the US warns Russia could attack Ukraine using bombs and missiles at any moment.
The high-stakes talks come at what US officials describe as a critical juncture in the ongoing crisis. A significant increase of Russian ground forces and military assets have surrounded Ukraine, and Putin could decide at any moment to activate them into a deadly invasion.
He hasn’t decided whether to act, the White House said Friday. But that has not stopped American officials from dramatically increasing their warnings an attack is now a “distinct possibility” and could occur swiftly.
Biden’s phone conversation with Putin — scheduled for 11 a.m. ET Saturday, according to the Kremlin — will be his first since the end of December. Since then, the number of Russian troops near Ukraine has increased and the prospects of an invasion have increased, according to American intelligence assessments.
Putin has also engaged a series of Western leaders in talks that have so far appeared fruitless in defusing the situation. The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs Friday accused Western countries and the media is spreading a “large-scale disinformation campaign,” which promotes the thesis about an allegedly impending Russian invasion of Ukraine.
“At the end of 2021 and the beginning of 2022, the global information space faced a media campaign unprecedented in its scale and sophistication, the purpose of which is to convince the world community that the Russian Federation is preparing an invasion of the territory of Ukraine,” the Ministry said in a statement published on its website, accusing Western nations and media outlets of spreading disinformation “in order to divert attention from their own aggressive actions.”
US national security adviser Jake Sullivan said Friday the two men would speak by phone but didn’t specify when. The President was planning the spend the weekend at the Camp David presidential retreat.
Earlier Friday, Sullivan warned a Russian assault on Ukraine could begin soon, beginning with aerial bombings and missile attacks. He advised all Americans to depart the country for their own safety as quickly as possible.
“Any American in Ukraine should leave as soon as possible, and in any event in the next 24 to 48 hours,” Sullivan said. “We obviously cannot predict the future, we don’t know exactly what is going to happen. But the risk is now high enough and the threat is now immediate enough that this is what prudence demands.”
Read more about the call and where things stand on Ukraine-Russia tensions here.