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Biden warns Putin of 'swift and severe costs' amid growing tensions

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President Joe Biden (R) and Russian President Vladimir Putin shake hands during the United States-Russia summit in Geneva, Switzerland. File Photo by Alexander Zemlianichenko/EPA-EFE
President Joe Biden (R) and Russian President Vladimir Putin shake hands during the United States-Russia summit in Geneva, Switzerland. File Photo by Alexander Zemlianichenko/EPA-EFE

Feb. 12 (UPI) -- U.S. President Joe Biden warned Russian President Vladimir Putin on a phone call Saturday of "swift and severe costs" if Russia escalates tensions by invading Ukraine.

"President Biden was clear that, if Russia undertakes further invasion of Ukraine, the United States together with our allies and partners will respond decisively and impose swift and severe costs on Russia," a White House readout of the call said.

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Biden also "reiterated that a further Russian invasion of Ukraine would produce widespread human suffering and diminish Russia's standing," the readout continued, adding that diplomacy was still an option but the country and allies are "prepared for other scenarios."

The call came amid most U.S. Embassy personnel evacuating from Ukraine's capital Kiev amid military buildup near Ukraine's borders.

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"The U.S. side requested a conversation with President Putin," and "the request was preceded by a letter from the U.S. side," Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told Russian state news agency Tass.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke on the phone with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov earlier Saturday "to discuss acute concerns that Russia may be considering launching further military aggression against Ukraine in the coming days," the U.S. State Department said in a statement Saturday.

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"The secretary made clear that a diplomatic path to resolving the crisis remained open, but it would require Moscow to deescalate and engage in good-faith discussions," the statement added. "He reiterated that should Moscow pursue the path of aggression and further invade Ukraine, it would result in a resolute, massive and united transatlantic response."

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The U.S. State Department also reissued a travel advisory Saturday, warning "do not travel to Ukraine due to the increased threats of Russian military action and COVID-19," and also warning "those in Ukraine should depart immediately."

Earlier in the day, Putin spoke with French President Emmanuel Macron

Macron told Putin a "sincere dialogue" was incompatible with escalating tensions since Russia have continued to move its military troops closer to the border with the Ukraine.

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U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan warned Friday "we continue to see signs of Russian escalation, including new forces arriving at the Ukrainian border."

A Russian invasion of Ukraine could begin "at any time," if Putin decides to order it including "during the Olympics," in Beijing, he added.

Also, on Friday, Biden warned Americans currently in Ukraine it was time to leave.

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"American citizens should leave now," Biden told NBC News anchor Lester Holt, citing the Russian buildup of 100,000 troops on the border with Ukraine.

U.S. stocks fell Friday after warnings of the potential invasion of Ukraine.

And on Friday the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs accused Western media of a "large-scale disinformation campaign, hyping the claim that Russia is planning to invade Ukraine."

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