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President Biden delivers remarks about the coronavirus at the White House on Tuesday.
President Biden delivers remarks about the coronavirus at the White House on Tuesday. (Demetrius Freeman/Washington Post)

President Joe Biden plans to talk by phone with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday as the U.S. and its allies raise alarm about Russia’s troop buildup on the Ukraine border.

The leaders will “discuss a range of topics, including upcoming diplomatic engagements with Russia,” National Security Council spokeswoman Emily Horne said in a statement.

The talks follow a Dec. 7 Biden-Putin phone call in which the U.S. president affirmed a commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and warned that Russian aggression would be met with unprecedented economic penalties.

The U.S. has told European allies that the massive Russian military buildup near Ukraine since November may be preparation for an invasion as early as next month. Russia denies plans for a military operation but has warned NATO against crossing “red lines” by stationing offensive weapons in Ukraine.

Russia will start talks with the U.S. on its demands for guarantees of an end to NATO’s eastward expansion before a proposed Jan. 12 meeting between the military alliance and Moscow, according to Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

“We will hold the main round of negotiations with the U.S. which will take place immediately after the end of the New Year holidays,” Lavrov said in a YouTube interview Monday with the Soloviev Live channel.

Russia’s top diplomat said his country isn’t presenting the U.S. with any “ultimatums,” but also won’t accept “endless” talks on its demands for legally binding pledges that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization will halt further expansion and withdraw forces to the positions they held in 1997.

State Department spokesman Ned Price repeated on Tuesday what’s becoming the standard U.S. response to concern that the Biden administration may cut its own deal with Russia while shortchanging the concerns of Ukraine and the European allies. “The principle is inviolable -- nothing about them without them,” he said.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy Wednesday about “efforts to peacefully resolve the conflict in eastern Ukraine and upcoming diplomatic engagements with Russia,” the State Department said in a statement.

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