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Ukraine crisis: Biden urges diplomacy, threatens sanctions against Russia

US President Joe Biden on Tuesday said the United States is still pursuing a diplomatic solution to the current standoff between Russia and the West over Ukraine, meanwhile warning Russia of severe sanctions should it choose to invade its neighbor.

In televised remarks delivered from the White House on the evolving situation on Ukraine’s borders, Biden said his country is prepared “to engage in diplomacy with Russia and our allies and partners to improve stability and security in Europe as a whole”, Xinhua news agency reported.

He asserted that “if Russia chooses to invade Ukraine, the West will respond decisively.”

Biden said he agrees with a proposal from the Russian government to continue diplomatic negotiations, adding “we should give diplomacy every chance to succeed.”

He said he told Russian President Vladimir Putin during their phone call on Saturday that the US is willing to “keep pursuing high-level diplomacy” to negotiate “written understandings” with Russia.

The US President claimed that his country has “put on the table concrete ideas to establish security environment in Europe,” referring to a written document the United States submitted to Russia last month to address Moscow’s security concerns.

The Kremlin has said the US document ignored its main demands, at the center of which is that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) cannot expand further eastward to include Ukraine as its member.

Biden said that the US in its future dialogues with Russia “will not sacrifice basic principles” aimed at advancing the common security of the United States and its allies and partners, a veiled refusal to Russian demand that Ukraine not be allowed to join NATO.

Putin told a press conference at the conclusion of his meeting with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz earlier Tuesday that Russia is prepared to discuss with the West “some” of the issues involving banning missile deployment to Europe and restricting military drills on the continent, but these discussions must happen “in complex with the main issues that are of primary importance for us.” He called Ukraine’s bid to join NATO a major security threat to Russia.

Biden warned Russia that an invasion against Ukraine will be met with severe economic sanctions from the US – including export control measures that will cripple Russia’s key industries.

He also acknowledged that the sanctions may backfire on the United States itself, saying his administration is taking measures to minimize the impact of possible hikes in energy prices and defend against potential Russian cyber attacks.

The US President also mentioned the drawdown of Russian troops along the Ukrainian border that was reported by the Russian Defense Ministry.

He said that the pullback “would be good,” but that the United States has “not yet verified that.” He called a Russian invasion of Ukraine “still a distinct possibility.”

Putin at the press conference with Scholz said Russia doesn’t want to go to war with Ukraine, but rather resolve the issue of NATO expansion “through peaceful means.” Russia, he added, would “very much hope that our partners hear our concerns and take them seriously.”