Leaders of US and Russia square off over the massive build-up of Russian troops near the Ukrainian border as Moscow seeks "guarantees" that military bloc NATO won't expand eastward.

US says it doesn't know for sure what Russia intends to do in Ukraine but it is alarmed at the deployment of some 100,000 battle-ready Russian troops to the border.
US says it doesn't know for sure what Russia intends to do in Ukraine but it is alarmed at the deployment of some 100,000 battle-ready Russian troops to the border. (Reuters)

US President Joe Biden has voiced "deep concerns" over Russia's massive buildup of troops near the Ukrainian border in a video meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin with the latter asking Biden for "guarantees" that military bloc NATO won't expand eastwards.

The two leaders squared off over the massive buildup of Russian troops near the Ukrainian border, in a virtual meeting on Tuesday, according to the White House. Kremlin said there was no breakthrough in talks.

Biden warned Putin in a tense, two-hour virtual summit of a "strong" Western economic response should Russian forces massed on Ukraine's border go on the attack.

He "made clear that the US and our allies would respond with strong economic and other measures in the event of military escalation," the White House said in a statement soon after the video conference.

Biden stressed "support for Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity and called for de-escalation and a return to diplomacy."

The leaders agreed that their respective teams would "follow up" on the summit.

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Putin seeks 'guarantees' NATO won't expand eastwards

Putin presented Biden with a demand for legally binding security guarantees that would rule out the expansion of NATO, the Kremlin said after virtual talks between the two leaders.

Putin told Biden that NATO was bolstering its military potential near Russia's borders and "making dangerous attempts to conquer Ukrainian territory," the Kremlin said.

"Therefore, Russia is seriously interested in obtaining reliable, legally fixed guarantees that rule out NATO expansion eastward and the deployment of offensive strike weapons systems in states adjacent to Russia," the Kremlin said.

Russian authorities have said that NATO's growing ties with Ukraine and the possibility of the alliance deploying missiles targeted against Russia there was a "red line" it would not allow to be crossed.

Putin also told his US counterpart he wanted guarantees that offensive strike systems would not be deployed in countries close to Russia, the Kremlin said.

The Kremlin, which said before Tuesday's meeting that it did not expect any breakthroughs, has denied harbouring any intention to attack Ukraine and said that its troop posture is defensive.

"It's hard to expect any sudden breakthroughs, but the presidents demonstrated their willingness to continue practical work and begin discussing sensitive issues that seriously concern Moscow," Kremlin aide Yuri Ushakov said after the two-hour talks.

TRT World's Yasmine El-Sabawi reporting from Washington DC said some US Congress members have been pushing President Biden to be tough on Russia, but the Biden administration "seemingly" doesn't want to provoke Moscow further. 

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Tension grows on Ukraine border

Just hours before the call got under way, Ukrainian officials charged Russia was continuing to escalate the crisis by sending tanks and snipers to war-torn eastern Ukraine to “provoke return fire.” 

Ukraine's Defence Ministry alleged that Russia is holding "training camps under the leadership of regular servicemen of the Russian Armed Forces."

Russia denies planning to invade Ukraine, but with satellite pictures showing massive troop concentrations on the border, fears are growing of war in Europe.

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Source: TRTWorld and agencies