Russian President Vladimir V. Putin chairing a meeting with members of the Security Council via a video link last week in Moscow.Credit…Mikhail Klimentyev/Sputnik, via Reuters
MOSCOW — President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia is holding an unscheduled meeting of his Security Council on Monday, the Kremlin said, declaring that “tensions are rising” as the warnings from the United States that his nation stands poised to attack Ukraine, swiftly and without provocation, grow more dire by the day.
Mr. Putin held a second call with President Emmanuel Macron of France at 1 a.m. Moscow time on Monday morning, after speaking with the French leader on Sunday, the Kremlin’s spokesman, Dmitri S. Peskov, told reporters.
Mr. Macron proposed a summit between President Biden and Mr. Putin, the French presidency said, but Mr. Peskov did not confirm that preparations for such a meeting had begun.
“It’s clear that tensions are rising,” Mr. Peskov said. “It’s too early to talk about concrete plans for organizing any summits.”
At Monday’s extraordinary meeting of the Security Council, Mr. Putin delivered a speech,on the tensions.
“We must decide together what we will do next and how we must act in the situation that has emerged today,” Mr. Putin said.
Mr. Putin said the meeting would also consider further steps related to his demands for “security guarantees” from the West, such as a rollback of the NATO presence in Eastern Europe and a legally binding pledge barring Ukraine from ever joining the alliance.
“For us, this is task No. 1.,” Mr. Putin said. “It is a priority for our country to assure its security and conditions for its development.”
The meeting came a day after the latest round of high-stakes diplomacy by Mr. Macron, which had appeared to give some new hope for a peaceful resolution over Ukraine as White House officials said Mr. Biden would be willing to consider direct talks with his Russian counterpart as long as Russia did not invade.
While not confirming plans for a summit, Mr. Peskov noted that Foreign Minister Sergey V. Lavrov was planning to meet with Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken this week, and that he may speak to his French counterpart as well.
White House officials said a possible summit between Mr. Biden and Mr. Putin would only be held after meetings between the top diplomats of the two countries, which are tentatively scheduled for later this week
One senior White House official said there were no plans for either the format or timing of a meeting between the two leaders. Another official called it all completely notional, and said that all evidence suggests Russia still intends to invade Ukraine in the coming days. Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.
Mr. Lavrov also sounded uncertain about the prospects for diplomacy. “We’re not against summits, we’re not against meetings,” he said at a news conference in Moscow on Monday. “But before we meet, especially in such a heated atmosphere, it’s important to understand how these summits and meetings will end.”
In a statement from the White House, Jen Psaki, the press secretary, said that Mr. Biden had accepted the idea of talks with Mr. Putin “in principle” and said that the United States remains committed to pursuing diplomacy “until the moment an invasion begins.”
“We are also ready to impose swift and severe consequences should Russia instead choose war,” she wrote in the statement. “And currently, Russia appears to be continuing preparations for a full-scale assault on Ukraine very soon.”
Mr. Putin said last week that Ukrainian forces were carrying out a “genocide” of Russian speakers in eastern Ukraine, a false claim that Western officials see as an attempt to build a case for a military intervention. Russian state television aired unfounded claims that Ukraine was preparing an offensive against the Russian-backed separatist territories in the country’s east, and showed residents fleeing to Russia, noting that “children are especially suffering.”
On Monday, the din of impending war grew even louder, as Russian news media broadcast separatist claims of an escalating assault by Ukrainian forces. Ukraine had shelled communications, bridges, a water filtration station and other critical infrastructure targets, and had sent saboteurs behind separatist lines, Russian state television reported from the separatist-held city of Donetsk.
Russian television showed the wreckage of a green-walled shack, describing it as a Russian border guard post hit by a Ukrainian shell. A Russian state television reporter said the Ukrainian aggression was being supported by NATO surveillance planes.
The separatists now needed military assistance from Russia, a separatist spokesman said in an interview with a Russian journalist on YouTube, according the Interfax news agency.
Ukrainian officials insisted their military was not preparing an assault against the separatist republic, and said the separatists were shelling their own territory.
“I emphasize once again that the Ukrainian army is not planning any offensive actions. Nowhere,” Ukraine’s defense minister, Oleksiy Reznikov, said at a news conference on Monday. “We stand for the return of our people and territories through political and diplomatic means.”