WASHINGTON/MOSCOW, Dec 7 (Reuters) – U.S. President Joe Biden will tell Russian President Vladimir Putin in a video conference later on Tuesday that Russia and its banks could be hit with the toughest economic sanctions yet if it invades Ukraine, U.S. officials said.
They said the sanctions, which one source said could target Russia’s biggest banks and Moscow’s ability to convert roubles into dollars and other currencies, were designed to dissuade Putin from using tens of thousands of troops massed near the Ukrainian border to attack its southern neighbour.
The Kremlin, which said before the meeting it did not expect any breakthroughs, has denied harbouring such intentions and has said its troop posture is defensive. But it has also said it is increasingly vexed by Western military aid to Ukraine and what it calls creeping NATO expansion.
It has likewise queried Ukrainian intentions and said it wants guarantees that Kyiv will not use force to try to retake territory lost in 2014 to Russia-backed separatists, a scenario Ukraine has ruled out.
“We’re looking for good, predictable relations with the United States. Russia never intended to attack anyone, but we have our concerns and we have our red lines,” said Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov.