Joe Biden last night proposed a summit in a third country with Vladimir Putin as he ratcheted up pressure on the Russian president over Ukraine and called on the Kremlin to “de-escalate tensions.”
Amid growing tensions between Ukraine and Russia, Mr Biden called Mr Putin for their second phone conversation since taking office.
Russia has been amassing troops near Ukrainian territory for more than three weeks after hostilities between Russia-backed separatists and government troops in eastern Ukraine flared up, breaking a months-long cease-fire.
It is the largest massing of Russian forces, with thousands of combat-ready troops, since Moscow seized Crimea from Ukraine in 2014.
A White House spokesman said: “President Biden emphasised the United States’ unwavering commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
The Kremlin confirmed that Mr Biden had proposed a high level meeting with Mr Putin, but gave no indication of how the Russian leader responded.
Moscow said Washington had initiated the call, and that Mr Putin had explained to Mr Biden his views on eastern Ukraine. Two US warships are due to arrive in the Black Sea this week.
Sergei Ryabkov, Russian deputy foreign minister, in words recalling the Cold War, called the US an “adversary” and accused it of provocation.
He said: “We warn the United States that it will be better for them to stay far away from Crimea and our Black Sea coast. It will be for their own good.”
Russia said it was sending 15 warships from the Caspian Sea to the Black Sea for drills. Jens Stoltenberg, Nato’s secretary general, pledged the military alliance’s “unwavering support” to Ukraine.
He said: “Russia’s considerable military buildup is unjustified and unexplained and deeply concerning. “Russia must end this military buildup in and around Ukraine, stop its provocations and de-escalate immediately.”
Tony Blinken, the US secretary of state, who was in Brussels, said Mr Biden had told Volodymyr Zelenskiy, the President of Ukraine, that the US was ”firmly behind“ his county.
Sporadic fighting was reported in eastern Ukraine on Monday and early Tuesday, and at least one Ukrainian soldier was killed in the area in the past 24 hours, according to the Ukrainian military.