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US-Russia relations: Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin talk Ukraine

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US President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin have held two hours of virtual talks on Ukraine and other disputes.

Russian TV footage showed Biden and Putin greeting each other in a friendly manner at the start of what was expected to be a tense exchange.

Mr Biden told Mr Putin he hoped their next meeting would be in person.

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The White House issued a statement saying the talks had started but did not display any visuals from the secure “Situation Room” where Mr Biden was located.

The two leaders talked for two hours and one minute, according to the White House.

The Kremlin has said it hopes the two leaders can hold an in-person summit to discuss what it has described as the lamentable state of US-Russia relations.

US officials said before the video conference that Mr Biden would tell Mr Putin that Russia and its banks could be hit with the toughest economic sanctions yet if it attacks Ukraine.

They said the sanctions, which one source said could target Russia’s biggest banks and the country’s ability to convert roubles into US dollars and other currencies, were designed to dissuade Mr Putin from using tens of thousands of troops massed near the Ukrainian border to attack its southern neighbour.

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

Russia has voiced rising vexation over US military aid to Ukraine, a fellow former Soviet republic that has tilted towards the superpower since a popular revolt toppled a pro-Russian president in 2014, and what it calls creeping NATO expansion to the east.

Russia has likewise questioned Ukrainian intentions and said it wants guarantees that officials in Kyiv will not use force to try to retake territory lost in 2014 to Russia-backed separatists, a scenario Ukraine has ruled out.

“We’re looking for good, predictable relations with the United States. Russia has never intended to attack anyone but we have our concerns and we have our red lines,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

Leaders from the United Kingdom, the United States, France, Germany and Italy will hold a call following the Biden-Putin talks, the White House and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s office said.

The same allies spoke on Monday and “agreed to stay in close touch on a coordinated and comprehensive approach in response to Russia’s military build-up on Ukraine’s borders,” the White House said.

Calling for everyone to keep “a cool head”, Mr Peskov said it was vital that Putin and Biden speak given what he called the extraordinary escalation of tensions in Europe.

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The Russian rouble weakened slightly on Tuesday, with some market analysts predicting the talks would de-escalate tensions and others saying that the US sanctions threat eroded hopes of finding common ground.

Mr Biden’s team has identified a set of economic penalties to impose should Russia launch an invasion, a senior Biden administration official said.

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