President Vladimir Putin and Joe Biden (Pictures: Alamy).

Biden and Putin to hold call amid Ukraine tensions

A Russian troop presence near the border with Ukraine has sparked political condemnation and fear of an invasion.

President Vladimir Putin and Joe Biden (Pictures: Alamy).

Presidents Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin are set to discuss the Russian troop build-up near Ukraine during their second call in recent weeks.

The White House indicated that Mr Biden would make clear to Mr Putin that a diplomatic path remains open, despite estimates the Russians have moved 100,000 troops towards Ukraine.

Formal talks between Russia and the US are expected to begin in the coming weeks, after a Russian troop build-up near the border with Ukraine sparked fears of another invasion - following the annexation of Crimea in 2014.

Moscow has stepped up demands for security guarantees in Eastern Europe and is insisting Ukraine is kept outside of NATO.

Washington has refused to offer such pledges, but said it is ready for the talks.

During the phone call, Mr Biden will reiterate to Mr Putin that, for there to be "real progress" in talks they must be conducted in "a context of de-escalation rather than escalation", according to a senior administration official who briefed reporters ahead of the call.

Meanwhile, US media outlets reported the American aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman and her strike group have paused a pre-planned mission route in order to remain in the Mediterranean, to reassure European allies over the threat from Russia.

It is "highly unlikely" Britain or its allies will send troops to defend Ukraine if it is invaded by neighbouring Russia, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has reportedly said.

Flag of Russia and Ukraine in Berlin 180415 CREDIT ALAMY STOCK PHOTO
There is widespread fear over potential for another Russian invasion of Ukraine (Picture: Alamy).

The upcoming call was requested by Russian officials and comes before expected talks between senior US and Russian officials on 10 January in Geneva.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov confirmed that Mr Putin would speak to Mr Biden on Thursday, but said the leaders were not expected to take part in the coming talks.

The pair held a video call earlier this month, focusing heavily on Russia’s troop movements that have unsettled Ukraine and other European allies.

In that video call on 7 December, the White House said Mr Biden put Moscow on notice that an invasion of Ukraine would bring sanctions and enormous harm to the Russian economy.

Russian officials have dismissed the sanction threats.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke on Wednesday with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to defend the territorial integrity of Ukraine, which is recognised as an Enhanced Operational Partner with NATO rather than an official member.