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Biden speaks to Ukrainian president amid Russian military buildup

US President Joe Biden speaks by telephone with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky from the Oval Office of the White House on December 9, 2021 in Washington, DC.

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WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden spoke with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Thursday afternoon as the security situation at Ukraine’s border with Russia continues to deteriorate.

The call between the two leaders, the second this month, comes as Biden and NATO allies prepare for a potential Russian invasion of his former Soviet neighbor.

“President Biden reaffirmed the United States ‘readiness, along with its allies and partners, to respond decisively if Russia further invades Ukraine. He also emphasized the United States’ commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” the White House said in a call.

Biden also told Zelenskyy that the U.S. embassy in Kiev remains open and fully operational after the State Department issued an order for eligible family members of staff at its embassy in Kiev to leave.

The State Department also recommended on Sunday that all U.S. citizens in Ukraine leave the country immediately, citing Russia’s continued military build-up at the border.

Earlier Thursday, the Kremlin said Russian President Vladimir Putin would review US security proposals provided by Russia’s ambassador John Sullivan.

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Russian officials, meanwhile, have repeatedly called on the United States to prevent an eastward expansion of NATO’s military alliance.

Russia has also demanded that the United States “not establish military bases” on the territories of any former Soviet states that are not already members of NATO, or “use their infrastructure for military activities or develop bilateral military cooperation with them.”

The United States and NATO have previously said that such a request from the Kremlin could not be granted.

And then for several months, the West has seen Putin send more than 100,000 forces with advanced equipment to areas along Ukraine’s border.

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said Thursday that Russia continues to increase its military presence along the border with Ukraine.

“We continue to see, including in the last 24 hours, more accumulation of credible combat forces lined up by the Russians,” Kirby told reporters during a news conference. “We continue to see him add to this ability,” he added.

The Kremlin has denied that the troop deployment is a prelude to an attack and has instead characterized the movement as a military exercise.

Since 2002, Ukraine has been seeking membership of NATO. The group’s Article 5 clause states that an attack on one Member State is considered an attack on all of them.

Biden told reporters on Tuesday that a full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine would radically change European security. “If he had to move in with all those forces, it would be the biggest invasion since World War II. It would change the world,” Biden said.

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