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Biden, Putin tentatively agree to meeting as fears of Russian invasion of Ukraine peak

President Joe Biden, Vladimir Putin
Posted at 7:36 AM, Feb 21, 2022

MOSCOW — The U.S. and Russian presidents have tentatively agreed to meet in a last-ditch diplomatic effort to stave off Moscow's invasion of Ukraine.

Heavy shelling is continuing Monday in the conflict in eastern Ukraine that is feared will spark the Russian offensive.

French President Emmanuel Macron sought to broker a possible meeting between U.S. President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin in a series of phone calls that dragged into the night.

Macron's office said both leaders had both "accepted the principle of such a summit" to be followed by a broader summit meeting on security and strategic stability in Europe.

The White House press secretary said Biden accepts "in principle" a meeting with Putin if Russia doesn't invade.

U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris is in Germany campaigning for a diplomatic solution. On Sunday, she warned about "the potential for war in Europe,"

News of the potential meeting came days after several news outlets reported that U.S. intelligence officials believe that Putin has already given orders to his military to commence an invasion.

The exercises in Belarus, which borders Ukraine to the north, were originally set to end on Sunday. The joint drills brought a sizable contingent of Russian forces to Belarus, and their presence raised concern that they could sweep down to Ukraine's capital in a Russian invasion.

Ukraine's president, Vladimir Zelenovskiy, has appealed for a cease-fire.

Russia has massed 150,000-plus troops near Ukraine but has denied that it plans to invade.

Putin has also proposed measures he says will improve security in Europe, including a promise not to extend an invitation to join NATO to Ukraine and the removal of the alliance's troops from Eastern Europe. The U.S. has said those proposals are nonstarters.

The U.S. has ordered thousands of troops toward Ukraine in recent weeks as Russia has grown more aggressive in its stance. The Pentagon says those troops were not being sent to fight but to reassure allies.