Russia says there are no concrete plans yet for a summit between President Vladimir Putin and his American counterpart Joe Biden, following reports that the two leaders had agreed to meet to discuss the Ukraine crisis.
“It’s premature to talk about any specific plans for organizing any kind of summits,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said at a news briefing in the capital Moscow on Monday.
“There is an understanding that dialogue should be continued at the level of foreign ministers,” he said, adding that there are “no concrete plans in place” for an imminent presidential summit.
“If necessary, of course, the Russian and American presidents can decide to hold a telephone call or connect via other methods,” Peskov said. “A meeting is possible if the heads of state consider it appropriate.”
Peskov further noted that tensions over Ukraine were rising but diplomatic contacts remained active, adding that Putin would soon address a special session of Russia’s security council.
The comments came hours after White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement that Biden had accepted “in principle” to meet his Russian counterpart only if Moscow would not have invaded Ukraine by then.
"We are always ready for diplomacy. We are also ready to impose swift and severe consequences, should Russia instead choose war," Psaki said late Sunday.
Psaki's confirmation of a potential Biden-Putin summit followed a statement by the Elysee Palace in France, also declaring that the two presidents had "accepted in principle" a virtual meeting brokered by French President Emmanuel Macron, who held separate phone calls with Biden and Putin on Sunday.
Macron's office said the plan for the possible summit on Europe’s “security and strategic stability” would be discussed during a meeting between US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Thursday.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian also said in a post on Twitter that he would hold talks with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov later on Monday.
Meanwhile, Ukraine has welcomed the French-proposed summit, but said it must be included in any decisions aimed at resolving the crisis.
"No one can resolve our issue without us," Ukraine's top security official Oleksiy Danilov said at a news briefing. "Everything should happen with our participation."
Relations between Russia and the West have hit a new low in recent weeks. The United States, its NATO allies, and Ukraine have accused Russia of preparing for an invasion of Ukraine by amassing 150,000 troops and armaments near the border with that country. Russia has rejected the claim, saying the military build-up is defensive in nature.
In a major step to de-escalate, Moscow announced last week that some of the troops deployed in areas bordering Ukraine would return to their bases. It also released footage showing tanks and armored vehicles being loaded onto railway flatcars. The US and its NATO allies, however, claim they have seen no significant withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukraine's border.
Putin has warned that the US is deliberately designing a scenario to lure Russia into a war over Ukraine, as the Kremlin has repeatedly reiterated that the expansion of the NATO military infrastructure in Ukraine constitutes a red line for Moscow and that any future expansion must exclude Ukraine and other former Soviet countries.
On Sunday, the US insisted that Russia was set to invade Ukraine, claiming that the country "appears to be continuing preparations for a full-scale assault on Ukraine very soon."
The White House said it has already prepared an initial package of sanctions that includes barring US financial institutions from processing transactions for major Russian banks.
The Kremlin warned the West against keeping up its daily predictions of a “Russian invasion” of Ukraine, saying they might lead to dire consequences.