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Biden tells Ukraine leader US will ‘respond decisively’ if Russia invades

WASHINGTON (AFP) – United States (US) President Joe Biden on Sunday reassured his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky that Washington “will respond decisively” if Russia moves to invade its pro-Western neighbor, the White House said in a statement.

With a Russian military buildup on Ukraine’s borders, Biden “made clear” to Zelensky during a phone call that the “US and its allies and partners will respond decisively if Russia further invades Ukraine,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said.

The show of US support for Ukraine comes days after Biden warned Russian President Vladimir Putin of severe consequences if Moscow launches a military invasion.

In his call with Zelensky, Biden also stressed Washington’s commitment “to the principle of ‘nothing about you without you’,” in an apparent reference to the need to include Ukraine in negotiations about its own future.

Zelensky tweeted afterwards that he appreciated the US’ “unwavering support” and that the call “proves the special nature” of the two countries’ relationship.

United States President Joe Biden. PHOTO: AP

High-ranking US and Russian officials are due to sit down on January 9 and 10 in Geneva to discuss the crisis.

Earlier this week, Biden spoke to Putin, the two leaders’ second conversation by phone in three weeks as tensions mount over Ukraine.

Discussing the call with Putin on Friday, Biden said: “I’m not going to negotiate here in public, but we made it clear he cannot – I’ll emphasise, cannot – invade Ukraine.”

The US leader added, in remarks to reporters during a holiday stay in Delaware, that he had “made it clear to President Putin that we will have severe sanctions, we will increase our presence in Europe, with NATO allies” if Russia invades Ukraine.

Psaki also said in Sunday’s post-call statement that Biden reaffirmed “the US’ commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

The US leader additionally “expressed support for confidence-building measures to de-escalate tensions in Donbas and active diplomacy to advance the implementation of the Minsk Agreements.”

Under the Minsk agreement – brokered by France and Germany – Ukraine agreed to carry out political reforms while Russia agreed to end its support for pro-Russian separatist rebels.

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