Biden and Putin talk by phone as Ukraine tensions rise

US President Joe Biden and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin will have a phone call on Thursday to discuss European security, the Kremlin and the White House have confirmed.

The call will come amid intense diplomatic efforts to defuse tensions over Ukraine, following reports that Russia has deployed 100,000 troops on its side of the border with the country and controversy over its role. Russia’s role in raising gas prices in Europe.

A senior US administration official said the call was arranged at Russia’s request and would require a “high degree of engagement” to create a path of “de-escalation”.

Mr. Biden will present his own list of US concerns about Russia’s military build-up along Ukraine’s border, and will make it clear that the US and its allies are prepared to “respond” to Russia. invasion, the official said.

On Wednesday, Putin said gas prices would stabilize once German regulators allow supply to flow to Western Europe via the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which runs under the Baltic and through Ukraine. Kyiv currently receives transit fees for Russian gas passing through its territory. German approval for Nord Stream 2 is expected until mid-2022.

Critics of the pipeline say it will increase Europe’s reliance on Russian energy supplies, and the US sees it as a possible target for sanctions in the event of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Russia considers Ukraine, where Russian is widely spoken and part of the former Soviet Union, within its sphere of influence. When asked last week about the possibility of Russia invading its neighbour, Putin said that the tension was caused by Nato exceeding the acceptable boundary with its eastward expansion towards Russia’s borders, and called it to be for immediate assurance that such expansion will stop.

Although the Russian leader had previously denied any invasion plans, last week he refused to rule out a military solution.

Earlier, Putin said that Russian and American officials were expected to meet in January to Negotiations on Ukraine. The senior US official said Washington wanted to see “concrete progress” on the ground to make the negotiations a success. On Wednesday, Josep Borrell, EU foreign policy official, said the bloc must be included in the negotiations.

Mr. Putin said that the second pipeline of Nord Stream 2 has been filled with gas and is ready for operation. “Now, of course, everything depends on our partners in Europe and Germany,” he said. “As soon as they decide to start work, Europe will immediately receive large volumes of additional Russian gas. This will certainly affect the price. . . in place [market]. And all consumers who buy Russian gas will immediately feel it.”

Gazprom, Russia’s state-backed monopoly gas exporter, has repeatedly been accused of exacerbating European gas prices by withholding volumes in excess of its contractual obligations and failing to fill the gas storage facilities in Europe. Last week, Putin defended the company, saying that it has delivered more gas to Europe this year than in 2020 and has not received requests for additional volumes at current prices.

Gazprom has an agreement to ship 40 billion cubic meters of gas through Ukraine through 2024 and has already surpassed that volume this year.

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