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Biden raises concern about Ukraine in call with Putin

President Joe Biden discussed escalating tensions with Ukraine in call Tuesday with Russian President Vladimir Putin. File Photo by Amr Alfiky/UPI
President Joe Biden discussed escalating tensions with Ukraine in call Tuesday with Russian President Vladimir Putin. File Photo by Amr Alfiky/UPI | License Photo

April 13 (UPI) -- President Joe Biden raised concern Tuesday about tensions escalating with military buildup on Ukraine's border in a call with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Biden focused on the United States' "unwavering commitment to Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity," according to a readout of the call.

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"The President voiced our concerns over the sudden Russia military build-up in occupied Crimea and on Ukraine's borders, and called on Russia to de-escalate tensions," the readout said. "President Biden reaffirmed his goal of building a stable and predictable relationship with Russia consistent with U.S. interests and proposed a summit meeting in coming months to discuss the full range of issues facing the United States and Russia."

Biden also made clear during the call that the United States will take a firm stance on cyber intrusions and election interference.

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Both countries intend to pursue strategic talks on arms control and emerging security issues to build on extension of the New START nuclear arms treaty, according to the readout.

"The United States is increasingly concerned by recent escalating Russian aggressions in eastern Ukraine, including Russian troop movements on Ukraine's border," White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters last week. "Russia now has more troops on the border with Ukraine than at any time since 2014. Five Ukrainian soldiers have been killed this week alone. These are all deeply concerning signs."

Russia annexed Crimea in 2014, which prompted sanctions against Russia from then-President Barack Obama who called it an "illegitimate move," with "dangerous risks of escalation." Since then, skirmishes between Ukrainian troops and pro-Russian separatists in the eastern part of the country have killed an estimated 14,000 people.

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Earlier this month, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin assured his Ukrainian counterpart, Andrii Taran, of unwavering support for Ukrainian sovereignty. Austin also condemned Russian aggression in the country and expressed his condolences at the time on the deaths of four soldiers in the last week.

Ukrainian officials said the soldiers were killed by Russian forces in Donbass, which the United States considers a violation of a ceasefire agreement.

The call Tuesday was Biden's second with Putin since taking office.

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On his first call with Putin in January, Biden discussed various matters of concern, the White House said. Among the topics, were the SolarWinds cyberattack that affected multiple government agencies and Fortune 500 companies, reported Russian bounties placed on U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan, interference in the 2020 presidential election and the poisoning of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, a readout of the call showed.

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