Western leaders are making another diplomatic attempt to prevent Russia from invading Ukraine. The move comes as heavy shelling in eastern Ukraine intensifies and the Kremlin has announced it will consider recognizing the independence of two separatist held regions.
French President Emmanuel Macron held a series of conference calls late Sunday seeking to broker a possible meeting between U.S. President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
On Monday, the White House confirmed Biden’s agreement to meet “in principle” with Putin on the condition Russia refrains from launching an invasion on Ukraine, which appears increasingly likely.
A Biden-Putin summit could offer new hope in averting an assault on Ukraine as Russia continues to build up troops, now estimated at 150,000, as shelling in Russian-controlled regions intensified over the weekend.
Details of the summit remain unclear. On Monday, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitriy Peskov said that “it’s premature to talk about specific plans for a summit.” Macron’s office did confirm, however, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will meet Thursday to lay the groundwork for the summit.
Meanwhile, the situation in eastern Ukraine is escalating with heavy shelling and explosions heard in the rebel held regions of Donetsk and Luhansk. Ukrainian military spokesman Pavlo Kovalchuk said its positions were shelled 80 times Sunday and eight times early Monday, noting the separatists were “cynically firing from residential areas using civilians as shields.”
Kovalchuk stated Ukrainian forces weren’t returning fire.
Conversely, a Russian news agency TASS reported people injured and property destruction as an alleged Ukrainian “diversionary reconnaissance” group breached Russia’s border from Ukrainian territory near Rostov. Russia’s military confirmed Ukrainian saboteurs were thwarted.
The allegations come as Ukraine and its western allies claim Moscow could manufacture a pretext to invade Ukraine with its large forces built up on Ukraine’s border.
Putin reached further into his playbook Monday with the announcement he will soon make a decision on whether to recognize the independence of Russian-held regions in eastern Ukraine. Putin’s decision could cost Russia a new wave of sanctions while offering an opportunity to officially move Russian military forces into rebel-held territories.
The Kremlin confirmed Putin notified leaders of Germany and France he would sign a “relevant decree” soon in response to the separatist leaders’ pleas to recognize their independence. Details of the decree’s text remain unknown.
Edited by: James Sutton