Kremlin denies ‘concrete’ plans for a Putin-Biden summit

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Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman said Monday that there were no plans yet for a new summit with U.S. President Joe Biden, contradicting claims by the Elysée Palace and the White House, which had said overnight that the leaders agreed “in principle” to meet provided Russia did not invade Ukraine.

Speaking to reporters, spokesman Dmitry Peskov said there were no “concrete plans” for a new Putin-Biden meeting, but that he was not excluding the possibility. And he said that “dialogue” between the Russian foreign ministry and the State Department would continue. He said that a meeting between Putin and Biden could be coordinated quickly if necessary.

Peskov also announced that Putin had called a large-format meeting of Russia’s Security Council on Monday, and that the Russian president would hold calls with several international leaders. Putin will deliver a speech, Peskov said, and other senior leaders would also speak.

The world has been on edge with the U.S. saying there are now nearly 200,000 Russian forces massed on Ukraine’s borders, and Biden warning repeatedly that he believes Putin has decided to invade the country.

On the conference call with reporters, Peskov confirmed that Putin and French President Emmanuel Macron had held a second phone call Sunday, after a discussion earlier in the day, and he said there was a chance that Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov would meet his French counterpart, Jean-Yves Le Drian.

In a statement issued after midnight, the Elysée Palace said: “Presidents Biden and Putin have each in principle accepted such a summit.” The statement said that Lavrov and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken would meet Thursday to prepare the meeting.

The White House press secretary, Jen Psaki, issued a statement saying that Biden had agreed to a meeting in response to Macron’s proposal.

“As the President has repeatedly made clear, we are committed to pursuing diplomacy until the moment an invasion begins,” Psaki said. “Secretary Blinken and Foreign Minister Lavrov are scheduled to meet later this week in Europe, provided Russia does not proceed with military action. President Biden accepted in principle a meeting with President Putin following that engagement, again, if an invasion hasn’t happened. ”

The Elysée issued a similar statement about the meeting being conditional on Russia not attacking Ukraine. Russia has repeatedly said it has no intention of starting a war. But Western leaders have warned that Putin could be looking for a real or fabricated pretext for an invasion, including allegations of increased cease-fire violations by the Ukrainian military in eastern Ukraine. Separatist leaders in the occupied areas of Donetsk and Luhansk initiated an evacuation of civilians over the weekend saying an attack by Ukraine was imminent, even though Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has said repeatedly that his forces are under orders to show restraint and not create an excuse for Putin to attack.

In her statement, Psaki reiterated the U.S. warnings that it would impose tough sanctions on Russia if there are new hostilities.

“We are always ready for diplomacy,” she said. “We are also ready to impose swift and severe consequences should Russia instead choose war.  And currently, Russia appears to be continuing preparations for a full-scale assault on Ukraine very soon.”

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