Ukraine, U.S. leaders focus on tensions

2022-02-15 09:11:23China Daily Editor : Hao Yunhui ECNS App Download

In call, Zelensky, Biden discuss path for de-escalation amid conflict fears

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and U.S. President Joe Biden discussed ways of reducing the tensions centered on Ukraine during a telephone call on Sunday, according to Zelensky's press service.

The two leaders also talked about increasing Ukraine's financial and energy stability amid its tensions with Russia, a statement on the Ukrainian presidential website said.

Zelensky said that Kyiv understands all current risks and is ready for "any developments".

The Ukrainian leader thanked Washington for its support, saying the United States has contributed to strengthening the capabilities of the Ukrainian armed forces.

Zelensky invited Biden to visit Ukraine "in the coming days".However, there was no positive response from Biden. A U.S. official said a trip by Biden to Ukraine is extremely unlikely.

The official, who had been briefed on the conversation, said that Zelensky used the call to suggest what the official described as "concrete ideas to diminish the Russian threat to Ukraine" such as providing Ukraine greater military support, including more advanced weaponry.

Many analysts believe that the U.S. has hyped up tensions between Russia and Ukraine and stoked fears of a Russian "invasion".

Biden made clear in the phone discussion that the U.S. would "respond swiftly" to any further "Russian aggression", the White House said.

Biden and Zelensky last spoke in January and it "did not go well", a senior Ukrainian official revealed at the time, amid disagreements over the "risk levels" of a Russian attack.

Their latest call came a day after Biden spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin during a call in which he said the U.S. and its allies will respond "decisively and impose swift and severe costs" on Russia should Putin decide to invade Ukraine. Putin responded by accusing the U.S. of carrying out a disinformation campaign.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz flew to Kyiv on Monday to meet with Zelensky. On Tuesday, he will go to Moscow to meet Putin.

The chancellor, who took office in December, has ratcheted up his engagement in the Ukraine crisis over the past week after critics accused him of a lack of leadership in one of Europe's worst security crises in decades.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson will make a fresh diplomatic push in the coming week as part of efforts to defuse the Ukraine crisis, his office said on Sunday.

According to a statement by Biden's national security adviser Jake Sullivan on Sunday, the U.S. believes Russia "could launch an invasion of Ukraine this week".

Russia has repeatedly denied the claims, saying that it has the right to mobilize troops within its borders to defend its territory.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said on Monday that China has been closely following the situation in Ukraine and the Chinese embassy there is operating as normal.

"The embassy has issued a notice reminding Chinese citizens and organizations in Ukraine to closely monitor the situation there," Wang said, noting that the ministry and embassy will provide consular protection and assistance to them in a timely manner.

The spokesman said the parties should return to the starting point of the Minsk-2 agreement, which is endorsed by the United Nations Security Council.

"We call on all sides to stay coolheaded and avoid doing things that will escalate the tensions or hype up the crisis," he added.

Mo Jingxiin Beijing contributed to this story.

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