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Russia’s Putin told Biden he would ‘really like’ to meet

By Anna Chernova and Kevin Liptak, CNN

Russian President Vladimir Putin told his US counterpart Joe Biden he would “really like” to meet for more talks, according to a video clip released by Russian state TV on Sunday from the leaders’ virtual call on Tuesday.

In a short video clip released on Russia 1, Putin told the US President: “We will definitely meet, I would really like that.”

The top State Department official for Europe will travel to Russia and Ukraine this week to discuss Russia’s military buildup near the border of Ukraine, less than a week after Biden told Putin in a call that the US is prepared to impose strong economic measures should Russia invade Ukraine, the State Department announced on Saturday.

Biden and Putin had tasked their respective teams with following up on their discussions about Ukraine when they spoke last week.

The leaders agreed that it would be necessary to speak again after the consultations take place. The date and format of this possible meeting are not yet set, according to the Kremlin.

The White House has not ruled out an in-person meeting between the two presidents but says nothing is currently planned.

In an interview with Russia 1 on Sunday, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said Putin told Biden during their Tuesday call that Russian troops are deployed on Russian territory and do not threaten anyone.

Peskov said escalating tensions aims to “further demonize Russia and frame Russia as a potential aggressor.”

He said the call between Biden and Putin was “mutually respectful” and Biden did not frighten Putin during the call.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken reiterated the White House’s commitment to deterring Russian military action in Ukraine and stressed the current system of international relations “is in danger” if Russia continues to threaten Ukraine.

In an interview with NBC News on Sunday, Blinken decried Russia’s increased military presence on its shared border with Ukraine, and said Biden relayed that message to Putin in their virtual meeting last week. He added that the diplomatic structure that “prevents war from breaking out” could break down if Russia continues its military escalation on the Ukraine border.

“One country can’t dictate to another country, its choices, its decisions in its foreign policy, with whom it will associate, one country can’t exert a sphere of influence over others, that’s what Russia is purporting to assert. And if we let that go with impunity, then the entire system that provides for stability, prevents war from breaking out, is in danger. That’s why this is so important. That’s why the President’s been very clear with President Putin,” Blinken said.

Blinken said it’s important for Biden and Putin to continue speaking directly, but stopped short of saying the White House would be open to a second in-person meeting between the two leaders and would not answer direct questions about the likelihood of one.

When asked whether the administration is considering an in-person meeting, Blinken dodged and said, “The video conference is important because as much as I can do with my counterpart, as much as other colleagues in the government can do with theirs, when it comes to Russia, President Putin is the one person that really counts, and it’s very important for President Biden to speak directly clearly to him so that he understands from the leader of the United States, exactly what he risks if he pursues aggression with Ukraine.”

Asked what it would take for Biden to agree to an in-person meeting, Blinken did not comment directly, but he said generally the United States and partners in Europe are “looking to see de-escalation. We’re looking to see Russia pull back forces from the border. And we’re looking to see Russia engage in good faith in diplomacy and diplomatic dialogue with the Europeans with Ukraine to resolve the conflict in eastern Ukraine. And to give Ukraine its border back. That’s what we’re looking to see.”

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Article Topic Follows: CNN - Europe/Mideast/Africa

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