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US warns of 'nuclear' sanctions on Russia in Joe Biden-Vladimir Putin talks

Economic penalties under discussion are 'pretty damn aggressive', similar to restrictions faced by Iran and North Korea, official has said.

Article originally published by The Telegraph. Hargreaves Lansdown is not responsible for its content or accuracy and may not share the author's views. News and research are not personal recommendations to deal. All investments can fall in value so you could get back less than you invest.

Joe Biden warned Vladimir Putin that the US and Europe were prepared to impose "nuclear" economic sanctions against Russia should it invade Ukraine in a high-stakes video call on Tuesday.

The tense meeting was one of the most critical tests of Mr Biden's presidency to date, viewed by Washington as a last-ditch attempt to ease tensions over fears that Moscow is preparing to attack its neighbour.

The White House said Mr Biden made clear to Mr Putin that the West was prepared to impose drastic sanctions in the event of a military escalation along the border.

In a show of unity, Downing Street said Boris Johnson would speak with his American, French, German and Italian counterparts to follow-up with Mr Biden on his call with the Russian

"President Biden voiced the deep concerns of the United States and our European Allies about Russia’s escalation of forces surrounding Ukraine," the White House said in a statement following the two-hour call.

Mr Biden also "reiterated his support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and called for de-escalation and a return to diplomacy".

In a highly uncharacteristic move, the Kremlin opted not to release their own readout of the call at the same time as the White House or immediately afterwards.

Moscow had indicated Mr Putin wanted iron-clad guarantees that Nato allies would not support Ukraine in its aspiration of joining the transatlantic alliance, an idea rebuffed by the West Mr Biden.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov had tempered expectations ahead of the call, framing it as "a routine conversation that takes place at a very difficult time".

He insisted that "Russia has no intentions to attack anyone," adding that Russia has its "own concerns, our red lines."

The much-anticipated video meeting began with smiles and warm greetings between the two leaders, according to Russian state media.

"Greetings, Mr President," Mr Putin said in a brief video clip released by the Kremlin. Mr Biden said it was "good to see" his Russian counterpart, adding that he hoped their next session would be in person.

But reflecting the tension around the event, the White House staged the video conference behind closed doors in the high-security Situation Room.

In contrast, Mr Biden held a similar recent video summit with Chinese leader Xi Jinping in the more decorative Roosevelt Room, with journalists invited to witness the opening minutes.

Washington has made clear the US is prepared to target Russia with the toughest economic sanctions yet, which could see Moscow shut out of the global electronic payment system if it invades Ukraine.

Plans for potential “aggressive sanctions” were revealed by White House officials ahead of last night's talks.

They included the “nuclear option” of disconnecting Russia from the SWIFT international payment system used by banks around the world.

One official reportedly described the package of sanctions under discussion as “pretty damn aggressive”, on par with the restrictions faced by Iran and North Korea.

Other unnamed officials said a new round of sanctions could target Russian energy producers, banks and potentially Russia’s top oligarchs.

Any decision to impose sanctions would be made following discussion with Washington’s European allies for a potentially coordinated response.

In Kyiv, Dmytro Kuleba, Ukraine’s foreign minister, expressed confidence that Mr Putin “will hear clear signals from President Biden about what Ukraine’s allies will do in case Putin were to resort to a military operation against our country.”

White House officials believe Mr Putin has not yet decided whether to invade Ukraine. But has been amassing tanks, heavy weaponry and about 100,000 troops near Ukraine for several weeks. Open-source data and intelligence reports point to large amounts of weaponry on the move across Russia.

Mr Biden is limited in his ability to respond, given the lack of appetite to deploy US troops to the Ukrainian border.

It is unclear whether the threat of harsh economic sanctions would be enough to deter Mr Putin, who has endured similar threats from the West in the past.

In addition to the Ukraine issue, the two leaders discussed "the US-Russia dialogue on Strategic Stability, a separate dialogue on ransomware, as well as joint work on regional issues such as Iran," the White House said.

This article was written by Russia Correspondent, Rozina Sabur, Nataliya Vasilyeva and Washington Editor from The Telegraph and was legally licensed through the Industry Dive publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@industrydive.com.

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    Article originally published by The Telegraph. Hargreaves Lansdown is not responsible for its content or accuracy and may not share the author's views. News and research are not personal recommendations to deal. All investments can fall in value so you could get back less than you invest.

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