Politics

President Biden speaks with Ukraine’s Zelenskyy after Putin speech

President Biden on Monday spoke with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy for about 45 minutes, the White House said.

The phone call followed a fiery speech by Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday announcing that Moscow was officially recognizing the independence of two breakaway territories in eastern Ukraine, marking a sharp escalation in the clash between Moscow and NATO.

Immediately after the speech, Mr. Putin signed decrees recognizing the separatist Donetsk and Luhansk “republics” in eastern Ukraine as independent states, increasing the possibility that Russia could move its forces into those territories.

The move is also a sharp rejection of diplomacy with the West to end the Ukraine crisis.

Mr. Biden and Mr. Zelenskyy last spoke a week ago amid warnings that a Russian invasion of Ukraine was imminent. Mr. Biden called his Ukraine counterpart Monday following a meeting with his national security team.

A White House official confirmed Mr. Biden’s meeting with his team, as several top administration officials were spotted at the White House, despite the fact that Monday is a federal holiday. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark A. Milley and CIA Director William Burns were among those spotted at the White House.

Vice President Kamala Harris is also at the White House after returning Sunday night from the Munich Security Conference in Germany.

Mr. Biden has no public appearances set for Monday, but has a speech on job creation scheduled for Tuesday from the White House.

The meeting comes as Mr. Biden’s top national security official publicly painted a grim picture of the situation in Ukraine.

National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan told NBC’s “Today Show” that a Russian attack will be “extremely violent” and likely more brutal than initially expected.

“We believe that any military operation of this size, scope, and magnitude of what we believe the Russians are planning will be extremely violent. It will cost the lives of Ukrainians and Russians, civilians and military personnel alike,” Mr. Sullivan said.

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