US President Biden claims Russian troops continue ?encircling Ukraine? even as Moscow said they were withdrawing
US President Joe Biden has reacted to Moscow’s announcement that Russian troops had begun to leave the Ukrainian border after military exercises, telling reporters on Tuesday that the US has "not verified" the information.
Biden continued to insist an invasion of Ukraine could still happen, saying at the brief White House appearance that Americans should follow his previous orders and leave the country. He claimed some 150,000 Russian troops continue "encircling Ukraine," without providing any evidence for the number cited.
Russian troops leaving Ukraine "would be good, but we have not yet verified it," Biden said. He did not take questions following his speech.
Other world leaders cast doubt on reports of Russian troops departing, with some western journalists going as far as to claim they are instead repositioning for an attack.
Moscow has repeatedly denied it harbors any attack plans, while pointing finger at the NATO for escalating the situation and endangering security in Europe.
Biden claimed, however, that the US and others do not pose a threat to Russia.
The US president added that in his latest conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the Ukraine crisis, both world leaders agreed to continue to "keep pursuing high-level diplomacy."
Should the alleged "invasion" take place, Biden threatened it will be answered "forcefully," adding that Washington would support Ukraine with weapons, training, and intelligence, but would not go so far as to send US servicemen to "fight in Ukraine."
Biden acknowledged though that an invasion would lead to a "war."
"If Russia attacks Ukraine, it would be a war of choice or a war without cause or a reason. I say these things not to provoke but to speak the truth. Because the truth matters. Accountability matters," he said.
Biden admitted further sanctions on Russia in the case of military aggression would mean economic consequences at home in the US, including rising energy prices, a crisis Americans have been dealing with on an ongoing basis since last year. He added that he is working with energy producers and suppliers on contingency plans.
"The American people understand that defending democracy and liberty is never without cost," he said.
Both the US and Russia will continue diplomatic efforts to address "our respective security concerns," Biden said.
Putin has previously accused the US of "ignoring" security demands, saying earlier this month that Moscow "hasn’t seen an adequate response to our key concerns: non-expansion of NATO, the refusal to deploy offensive weapons next to the Russian borders, and bringing back the military infrastructure of [the NATO bloc] to the status quo of 1997, when the Russia-NATO treaty was signed."
Biden said on Tuesday that both countries "should give diplomacy every chance to succeed."
"I believe there are real ways to address our respective security concerns," he said, adding that proposals are being made that include "new arms measures, new transparency measures, [and] new strategic stability measures" that would apply to NATO and Russia alike.