JOE Biden has told Vladimir Putin to stand down in Ukraine – hours after Russia told the US to keep away “for their own good”.
In only the second conversation between the two since Biden took office in January, the US president warned the Russian leader to “de-escalate tensions” in eastern Europe, the White House said.
Biden spoke of his “unwavering commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity”.
And he proposed a summit meeting in a third country “in the coming months” to “discuss the full range of issues facing the United States and Russia”.
The White House said in a statement: “President Biden also made clear that the United States will act firmly in defense of its national interests in response to Russia’s actions, such as cyber intrusions and election interference.
“The president voiced our concerns over the sudden Russian military build-up in occupied Crimea and on Ukraines borders, and called on Russia to de-escalate tensions.”
Biden also “reaffirmed his goal of building a stable and predictable relationship with Russia, consistent with US interests”.
The dramatic phone call took place just hours after Russia warned the US to keep its warships away from Crimea “for their own good” and accused them of turning the region into a “powder keg”, as the Ukraine crisis becomes increasingly hostile.
And it follows Washington deploying two ships to the Black Sea and reiterating that the US “stands firmly behind” its European ally, while NATO braced to begin its “air policing mission”.
The decision to deploy the two Arleigh Burke-class destroyers, the USS Donald Cook and USS Roosevelt, was branded “a provocation” formulated “to test our nerves”, by Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov.
They are set to arrive tomorrow and Thursday from the Spanish naval base, Turkish sea policing sources told the Daily Mail.
Ryabkov dubbed the US “an adversary” of his home state, amid soaring tensions with the West and talks between the US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Ukraine’s foreign minister in Brussels today.
Russian state TV has even dragged MI6 into the spat, claiming Britain is conniving with Ukraine to trigger a bloody new war in Europe.
The allegations come as an apparent bizarre bid to justify Vladimir Putin massing forces on the frontiers of its close neighbour, and in the strategic Black Sea.
Viewers were also informed that in a “hot war”, Ukraine would be wiped out in “two days”.
Russian state TV in a broadcast quoted “expert” Sergey Kurginyan as saying British intelligence “has become a dominant force” in Ukraine.
Referring to the head of MI6, Richard Moore, he alleged Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelensky “is eating out of their hands” and obediently following a British playbook towards conflict.
Kurginyan told a ‘propaganda show’ on Rossiya 1 channel: “If continental Europe is a bit scared of potential accidents, these ones (the British) don’t give a damn, and they continuously push for exacerbation.
“I want to keep your attention and say one more time – this is not the end of Richard Moore’s career. MI6 is not the end of his career.
“This is the person who thinks far ahead, and into the future.”
President Zelensky deemed the mass deployment from Russia as intimidation tactics intended to unnerve the West.
“They want the West to be frightened of Russia’s strength, of her power,” he said in a wide-ranging interview with TIME.
”There’s no big secret here.”
“What they want to do,” Zelensky said, ”is raise the temperature just enough to show that the West will waver in its support for Ukraine, that they do not really see us as a partner.”
But the superpowers have not faltered, and NATO chief Jens Stoltenburg also pledged the organisation’s “unwavering support” for Kiev, regarding the increasingly volatile power struggle.
Ukraine has called for membership of NATO in quick time to protect it from Russian bullying.
Russia’s defence minister Sergei Shoigu claimed that NATO was planning to station 40,000 troops and 15,000 pieces of military equipment in the region – which NATO vehemently denies – and Russia is simply responding.
Senior Zelensky aide Roman Mashovets has warned that Russia will soon double the size of its military grouping deployed along Ukraine’s borders.
The latest on-the-ground videos show further bolstering of Russian positions close to eastern Ukraine and annexed Crimea, along with military exercises depicting combat readiness currently underway in several regions.
Kyiv is now claiming Moscow has doubled its military strength in the border zone amid fears of an invasion.
Up to 85,000 Russian troops, plus thousands of tanks, missile trucks, armoured vehicles and long-range guns have massed near Ukraine’s borders.
It is the biggest show of force since Russia seized Crimea in 2014, triggering a conflict that claimed 14,000 lives.
Footage from Ukraine, in stark contrast, shows a Dad’s Army-style train movement of aged military vehicles to the conflict zone in the east of the country, seemingly no match for Putin’s hi-tech tanks and missiles nor a troop strength suspected now to number almost 100,000.