US President Joe Biden will tell Russian President Vladimir Putin in a video conference that Russia could be hit with the toughest economic sanctions yet if it invades Ukraine, White House officials said.

The Kremlin said it expected no breakthrough at virtual talks between Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Joe Biden over Ukraine, but urged people to remain calm despite mounting tensions.
The Kremlin said it expected no breakthrough at virtual talks between Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Joe Biden over Ukraine, but urged people to remain calm despite mounting tensions. (AP)

US President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin will hold a high-stakes video conference call that Biden will use to try to dissuade Moscow from invading Ukraine, where thousands of troops are massed near the border.

Biden aims to make clear on Tuesday that his administration stands ready to take actions against the Kremlin that would exact “a very real cost” on the Russian economy, according to White House officials. 

“We’ve consulted significantly with our allies and believe we have a path forward that would impose significant and severe harm on the Russian economy,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said on Monday in previewing the meeting. 

“You can call that a threat. You can call that a fact. You can call that preparation. You can call it whatever you want to call it," she added.

Putin, for his part, is expected to demand guarantees from Biden that the NATO military alliance will never expand to include Ukraine, which has long sought membership.

"There's no need to expect any breakthroughs from this conversation. It is a working conversation at a very difficult period," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Tuesday.

READ MORE: US vows to prevent any Russian invasion of Ukraine

New sanctions considered

Biden consulted with European allies on Monday to discuss plans for sanctions against Russia and seek a strong allied stance in support of Ukraine's territorial integrity and sovereignty.

Biden spoke to French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

They called on Russia to de-escalate tensions and return to diplomacy and said their teams will stay in close touch, including in consultation with NATO allies and EU partners, the White House said.

Sanctions against Russia's biggest banks and the ability to convert rubles into dollars and other currencies were also being considered, another source said.

READ MORE: Ukraine: Large-scale Russian offensive possible in January 

Fears of a possible attack

Ukraine and NATO powers accuse Russia of building up troops near the border, sparking fears of a possible attack.

Moscow denies any such plan and accuses Kyiv of building up its own forces in its east, where Russian-backed separatists control a large part of Ukrainian territory.

The United States has urged both countries to return to a set of agreements signed in 2014 and 2015 and designed to end a separatist war by Russian-speakers in eastern Ukraine.

The secure video call, with Biden speaking from the White House Situation Room, is expected to occur at about 1500 GMT.

READ MORE: Why Ukraine matters to Russia so much

Source: TRTWorld and agencies