MOSCOW (AP) — The U.S. and Russian presidents tentatively agreed to meet in a last-ditch effort to stave off a possible Russian invasion of Ukraine, even as sustained shelling continued today in a conflict in eastern Ukraine that Western powers fear could provide the spark for a broader war.
If Russia invades, as the U.S. warns Moscow has already decided to do, the meeting will be off. Still the prospect of a face-to-face summit resuscitated hopes that diplomacy could prevent a devastating conflict, which would result in massive casualties and huge economic damage in Europe, which is heavily dependent on Russian energy.
Russia has massed an estimated 150,000 troops on three sides of Ukraine — the biggest such buildup since the Cold War. And Western officials have warned that Russian President Vladimir Putin is now merely looking for a pretext to invade the country, a western-looking democracy that has defied Moscow’s attempts to pull it back into its orbit.