Biden and Putin hold talks amid rising tensions over Ukraine

US President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin met for virtual talks on Ukraine and other subjects on Tuesday amid Western fears that Moscow plans to attack its neighbour.

Russian television showed the American President saying “good to see you again” and lamenting that the two leaders weren’t able to meet up at the Group of 20 meeting this year, which Putin skipped over COVID-19 concerns.

US President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin.Credit:AP

“I hope next time we meet we do it in person,” Biden said as Putin, sitting at a table at his residence in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, smiled.

The pair spoke for more than 90 minutes as they sought to ease tensions between Russia and the West.

It was the fourth direct conversation between the two leaders this year, following two calls and one summit in Geneva that was itself prompted by a Russian troop buildup near Ukraine.

This time, US officials say their intelligence suggests Russia has drafted a plan for a military offensive against Ukraine as soon as early 2022 involving as many as 175,000 personnel.

US intelligence has also detected an uptick in Russian propaganda targeting Ukraine, fuelling speculation the Kremlin is readying an attack.

The Kremlin says it does not intend to invade and accuses the US and its allies of expanding their military infrastructure into Ukraine in a way that Russia sees as threatening.

On Monday, Biden discussed sanctions on Russia with European allies on Monday, seeking a strong joint stance in support of Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty.

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