Putin rejects Biden summit, snubs embarrassing French-brokered deal

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With tensions building over the possibility of Russia invading Ukraine, President Biden has accepted “in principle” a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in what’s being billed as a last-ditch effort at diplomacy.

The news came late Sunday after U.S. intelligence reportedly claimed that Putin had already given the order for the Russian military to “proceed with the invasion.”

Biden agreed to a summit with Putin to discuss Ukraine providing Russia does not invade the country, according to the Daily Mail. French President Emmanuel Macron announced the summit, saying he had suggested to the two leaders a meeting to discuss “security and strategic stability in Europe.”

“Presidents Biden and Putin have both accepted the principle of such a summit,” Macron said, according to the British newspaper.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Sunday evening that the summit would follow a meeting between Secretary of State Antony Blinken and his Russian counterpart, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov — Blinken and Lavron are scheduled to meet on Thursday, February 24, to work out the details of the summit.

“As the President has repeatedly made clear, we are committed to pursuing diplomacy until the moment an invasion begins,” Psaki said in a statement. “President Biden accepted in principle a meeting with President Putin following that engagement, again, if an invasion hasn’t happened. We are always ready for diplomacy.”

“We are also ready to impose swift and severe consequences should Russia instead choose war,” she added. “And currently, Russia appears to be continuing preparations for a full-scale assault on Ukraine very soon.

Russia’s state-run Tass news agency reported early Monday that the Kremlin said there were “no concrete plans” for a leaders’ summit, essentially rejecting the talk of a summit.

“It’s premature to talk about any specific plans for organizing any kind of summits,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, according to the Daily Mail.

With an estimated 190,000 Russian forces at the Ukraine border, Biden continued to insist over the weekend that a Russian invasion could come at any time, and war fever dominated the news both in the U.S. and Europe.

Biden convened a meeting of the National Security Council on Sunday to discuss the escalating crisis in Ukraine, with NBC News reporting that Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Secretary of State Antony Blinken were spotted entering the West Wing shortly before noon. Austin and Blinken had just returned from Europe. Vice President Kamala Harris was to participate remotely from Air Force Two, according to the White House. Harris is returning from Germany, where she met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy at the annual Munich Security Conference over the weekend.

Blinken made the rounds on the Sunday talk shows, to include CNN’s “State of the Union.”

“We will do everything we can to try to prevent it before it happens, but equally we’re prepared, if he does follow through, to impose massive consequences, to provide for Ukraine’s ongoing defense and to bolster NATO,” he said of a Russian invasion.

In an appearance on “Face the Nation,” Blinken pushed the notion that an invasion was imminent.

“As President Biden said the other night, everything we’re seeing tells us that the decision we believe President Putin has made to invade is moving forward,” Blinken told host Margaret Brennan. “We’ve seen that with provocations created by the Russian or separatist forces over the weekend, false flag operations. Now the news just this morning that the quote, unquote ‘exercises’ Russia was engaged in in Belarus with 30,000 Russian forces that were supposed to end this weekend will now continue because of tensions in eastern Ukraine, tensions created by Russia and the separatist forces it backs there.”

An estimated 30,000 Russian forces are conducting military drills in Belarus over the next week, drills that were set to end on Sunday before being extended, and Moscow continues to insist that there are no plans to invade Ukraine.

CBS News reported that it’s believed Moscow will start an invasion with a cyber-assault, followed by missile and airstrikes before ground troops roll into the country to take Ukrainian cities and towns.

The U.S. is warning that Russia is planning a “overwhelming intensity of fire” on Ukraine that could kill “tens of thousands” within the opening days of a conflict:

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