February 15, 2022
MOSCOW – The phone conversation between Russian President Vladimir Putin and United States President Joe Biden on Saturday over the situation in Ukraine was described by the Russian side as “balanced and businesslike”, and the two leaders agreed to continue contacts at all levels.
The Kremlin’s top foreign policy aide, Yury Ushakov, said at a media briefing after the conversation that the talks, originally scheduled for Monday, were held at Washington’s request, with the US citing concerns that an invasion of Ukraine by Russia might be “imminent”.
“The pressure around the topic of the invasion was carried out in a coordinated manner and the hysteria has reached its climax,” Ushakov said.
“We don’t understand why false information about our intentions is being passed to the media,” he told reporters.
Right before the phone conversation, the Russian Foreign Ministry accused Western countries and the media of a large-scale disinformation campaign about an allegedly impending Russian invasion of Ukraine “in order to divert attention from their own aggressive actions”.
Putin also spoke with Biden about what he called “destructive” policies pursued by Ukrainian authorities to “sabotage” the multinational Minsk agreements, signed in 2014 and 2015. The agreements outline a roadmap of the conflict in eastern Ukraine, where Kyiv’s forces face off with the breakaway republics of Donetsk and Luhansk.
According to Ushakov, Putin again complained to Biden about such policies, saying they effectively encourage Kyiv to attempt to resolve the conflict in the country’s east by force.
Putin said Western countries don’t put enough pressure on Kyiv to fulfill the deal, Ushakov noted.
“Against the backdrop of the allegations regarding the ‘invasion’, conditions are being created for possible provocative actions by the Ukrainian armed forces,” he said.
Russia is demanding binding security guarantees from the West that include a pledge to roll NATO forces out of eastern Europe and to never expand into Ukraine.
Washington has flatly rejected the demands while offering to discuss a new European disarmament agreement with Moscow.
The call between the two leaders came hours after the US moved some of its forces out of Ukraine and ordered the evacuation of most of its embassy staff on Saturday.
On the same day, Putin held a call with French President Emmanuel Macron, who also spoke with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Saturday. A French presidency official said there were no indications from what Putin told Macron that Russia is preparing an offensive against Ukraine.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, during a 35-minute call on Saturday with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, emphasized that the path for diplomatic engagement remained open in the escalating crisis between the West and Russia, a US State Department official said.
Meanwhile, US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan advised all US citizens in Ukraine to leave Ukraine for their own safety as quickly as possible.
Several other countries, including Germany, Israel and Sweden, also called for their citizens to leave Ukraine immediately.