Kremlin says it is too early to talk about Putin-Biden summit, Russian navy military exercise in the Black Sea

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The Kremlin said on Wednesday it was premature to talk in tangible terms about a possible meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his U.S. counterpart Joe Biden, who has proposed the two leaders meet.

Biden, in a phone call on Tuesday, proposed a summit of the estranged leaders to tackle a raft of disputes.

The Kremlin said it would study Biden’s proposal. 

The Kremlin also told Washington on Wednesday it would act decisively if the United States undertook any new “unfriendly steps” such as imposing sanctions, the RIA news agency reported, citing a foreign ministry source.

It said the comments were made by Russian President Vladimir Putin’s foreign policy adviser Yuri Ushakov who invited the U.S. ambassador in Moscow to talks following a phone call on Tuesday between Putin and U.S. President Joe Biden, RIA said.

Ukraine’s armed forces rehearsed repelling a tank and infantry attack near the border of Russian-annexed Crimea on Wednesday, the Ukrainian military said in a statement.

The drills came a day after U.S. President Joe Biden phoned Russian President Vladimir to discuss a build-up of Russian troops near eastern Ukraine and in Crimea, among other U.S. concerns.

Russia seized Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 and fighting has increased in recent weeks in eastern Ukraine, where government forces have battled Russian-backed separatists in a seven-year conflict that Kyiv says has killed 14,000 people.

The Ukrainian military said it had deployed tanks and artillery in Wednesday’s drills to practice repelling a force of tanks and infantry trying to break through its defences.

It posted video footage, set to rock music, of Ukrainian tanks manoeuvring in formation and of soldiers loading and firing artillery pieces.

Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said on Tuesday that Moscow’s military build-up near Ukraine was part of a large snap drill meant to test combat readiness and respond to what he called threatening military action by NATO.

Shoigu said that the three-week exercise, which he called successful, was due to wrap up in the next two weeks.

Shoigu said NATO was deploying 40,000 troops and 15,000 pieces of military equipment near Russia’s borders, mainly in the Black Sea and the Baltic regions.

The Western alliance denies any such plans.

The Russian navy on Wednesday began a military exercise in the Black Sea ahead of the expected arrival of U.S. warships in the area, Russian news agencies reported.

The drills involve surface ships from Russia’s Black Sea fleet, which is based in Crimea, as well as helicopters and planes. The drills will rehearse firing at surface and air targets, agencies said.

Two U.S. warships are due to arrive in the Black Sea this week as Washington and NATO sound the alarm over a large build-up of Russian forces near Ukraine and in Crimea.

Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014.

Moscow has warned the expected U.S. warships to stay well away from Crimea “for their own good”, calling their deployment in the Black Sea a provocation designed to test Russian nerves.

Photo: EPA-EFE/FELIPE TRUEBA