France has announced President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin have agreed “in principle” to a summit, proposed by French President Emmanuel Macron, as diplomatic tensions continue to escalate over Ukraine. However, the White House said the meeting will only go ahead if Russia does not invade Ukraine, and Moscow said there are not yet “concrete plans” for the talks. The agenda would be set by U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov when they meet on Thursday. On Friday, President Biden offered one of his starkest warnings yet over a possible invasion of Ukraine.
President Joe Biden: “In the coming days, we believe that they will target Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, a city of 2.8 million innocent people.”
Reporter: “And do you have any indication about whether President Putin has made a decision on whether to invade? Do you feel confident that he — that he hasn’t made that decision already?”
President Joe Biden: “As of this moment, I’m convinced he’s made the decision.”
This comes amid intensified fighting in eastern Ukraine. Two Ukrainian soldiers were killed Saturday, and Russian-backed separatists ordered evacuations of civilians — a move Ukraine blasted as a provocation and part of a Russian plan to stage attacks in the region. Meanwhile, Russia has extended military drills in Belarus that were set to end Sunday.
On Saturday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called on Western nations to take stronger action, urging them to impose sanctions immediately, as he spoke at the Munich Security Conference.
President Volodymyr Zelensky: “To me, as the president of a country that has lost parts of its territory and thousands of people, at whose border 150,000 Russian soldiers, military equipment and heavy weapons stand, the answer is obvious: The world security architecture is fragile. It needs renewal. The rules that the world agreed on 10 years ago do not apply any longer.”
Outside the Munich conference, hundreds of peace activists rallied in protest. We’ll have the latest on Ukraine after headlines with The Nation magazine’s Katrina vanden Heuvel.