Ukraine: US offers Putin summit with Biden in effort to stop slide to war

The US has offered to hold a summit between Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin as a last-ditch effort to stop the slide to a new war in Europe, as Russia continued to build up its forces along the Ukraine border and announced new naval exercises in the Black Sea.

The US secretary of state, Antony Blinken, said Washington and its allies were also ready to respond in writing next week to Russian demands on the future of Nato and European security, which Moscow has said must be addressed to avoid it taking “military measures”. But, speaking in Geneva where he held talks with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov, Blinken repeated the US and Nato position there could still be no compromise on the central issue of the right of Ukraine and other countries to join Nato in the future.

The offer of a summit came as a weeks-long standoff over Ukraine teeters on the brink of a pivotal and potentially violent phase, with rising concerns that Europe may again be beset by war. As the Geneva talks were under way, Russia ratcheted up the military pressure on Ukraine, announcing major naval exercises that will include 140 ships from all of the country’s fleets and will include drills in the Mediterranean and Black Seas.

Six Russian landing ships have sailed from the Baltic Sea this week and are believed to be on their way toward Ukraine, threatening an amphibious assault on Ukraine’s southern coast if Russia decides to attack.

Ukrainian intelligence accused Russia of recruiting mercenaries to send over the border and of already smuggling in more than 7,000 tons of fuel, several tanks and heavy artillery.

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