‘Will NOT accept red lines’ Biden in direct attack on Putin- war fears grow ahead of talks

Ukraine invasion fears as Putin faces Covid backlash in Russia

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Ukrainian authorities have cited intelligence reports to warn more than 94,000 Russian troops are massed near its own borders, sparking fears Russia may be planning a large-scale military offensive within a matter of weeks. Russia has hit back and accused Ukraine and the US of unnecessarily ramping up tensions, suggesting itself that Kyiv might be preparing to launch its own offensive in eastern Ukraine – a claim that has been strongly denied by the Ukrainian authorities. Mr Biden and Mr Putin are expected to hold crunch talks over a video call in the coming days in an attempt to ease the surging tensions.

Ahead of that, the US President said he is expecting to have a “long discussion” with his Russian counterpart, but warned he will not “accept anybody’s red lines”.

He told reporters as he left for a weekend trip to Camp David: “We’re aware of Russia’s actions for a long time and my expectation is we’re going to have a long discussion with Putin.

“I don’t accept anybody’s red lines,” he said of Russia’s demands.

Mr Biden said he is developing a set of “comprehensive” and “meaningful” initiatives to make it as difficult as possible for Mr Putin to invade the Ukraine – without going into much more detail.

He warned: “What I am doing is putting together what I believe to be the most comprehensive and meaningful set of initiatives to make it very, very difficult for Mr Putin to go ahead and do what people are worried he’s going to do.”

Despite the lack of detail on these planned measures, US and Ukrainian officials warned earlier this week that severe economic sanctions are on the table against Russia.

Following his meeting with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Thursday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov claimed the US had threatened fresh sanctions.

The latest warnings from Mr Biden come as the Washington Post newspaper reported intelligence officials in the country are worried Russia is putting together a multi-front offensive as soon as early next year involving up to 175,000 troops.

The intelligence experts have also reportedly recognised a surge in propaganda efforts through the use of proxies and media outlets to lash out at both the Ukraine and NATO ahead of a possible conflict.

Ukrainian Defence Minister Oleksiy Reznikov believes any Russian escalation will likely take place at “the end of January”.

He said: “Our intelligence is analysing all scenarios, including the worst-case scenario.

“It says that there is a possibility of large-scale escalation by Russia. The most probable time when [Russia] is ready for escalation will be the end of January.”

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Mr Reznikov added: “The better we work – alone and together with our partners – the less the risk of escalation.

“The way is to make the price of possible escalation unacceptable for the aggressor.

“Ukraine is most interested in the political and diplomatic scenario of the settlement.

“In principle, there can be no forceful provocations on our part.

“At the same time, the way to ‘pacify the aggressor’ is not being considered. If necessary, Ukraine will fight back.”

On Thursday, US Secretary of State Mr Blinken urged Russia to withdraw its troops deployed near Ukraine and instead pursue a diplomatic solution to escalating tensions in the region.

He made the comments following a meeting with Russian counterpart Mr Lavrov in Stockholm on the sidelines of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) nations.

Mr Blinken told a news conference: “The United States and our allies and partners are deeply concerned by evidence that Russia has made plans for significant aggressive moves against Ukraine, including efforts to destabilise Ukraine from within and large-scale military operations.”

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