About 8,500 US troops are on standby for possible deployment to Eastern Europe. File photo
President Joe Biden said on Friday he will be moving US troops to Eastern European and NATO countries "in the near term."
The Pentagon has placed about 8,500 US troops on stand-by for possible deployment to Europe amid Russia's military build-up near Ukraine's border.
US President Joe Biden speaks during an event. File photo
Biden sought to maintain pressure on Russian leader Vladimir Putin over Ukraine Friday, announcing a small troop deployment to Eastern Europe even as top Pentagon officials backed a renewed push for diplomacy.
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As President Volodymyr Zelensky urged Western leaders to avoid stirring "panic" over the massive Russian troop buildup on his country's borders, Putin and French President Emmanuel Macron agreed on the need for de-escalation.
Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky attends a meeting. File photo
Neither Putin nor his European and American counterparts had until now appeared ready to give ground in the weeks-long crisis, the worst in decades between Russia and the West.
But according to a Macron aide, Putin told the French leader in a call lasting more than an hour that he had "no offensive plans."
In Washington, Biden nevertheless said he would soon send a small number of US troops to bolster the NATO presence in eastern Europe as tensions remain heightened.
The United States already has tens of thousands of troops stationed across mostly Western Europe.
At the Pentagon, top officials urged a focus on diplomacy while saying that Russia now had enough troops and equipment in place to threaten the whole of Ukraine.
Russian leader Vladimir Putin attends a meeting. File photo
Any such conflict, warned the top US general, Joint Chiefs Chairman Mark Milley, would be "horrific" for both sides.
"If that was unleashed on Ukraine, it would be significant, very significant, and it would result in a significant amount of casualties," Milley said.
But speaking alongside Milley, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said war could still be avoided.
"Conflict is not inevitable. There is still time and space for diplomacy," said Austin.
"Mr Putin can do the right thing as well," said Austin. "There is no reason that this situation has to devolve into conflict."
During his talks with Macron, Putin "expressed no offensive plans and said he wanted to continue the talks with France and our allies," the aide to the French president said.
Their conversation "enabled us to agree on the need for a de-escalation," the aide told journalists. Putin "said very clearly that he did not want confrontation."
Russian forces withdrew from towns north of the capital Kyiv last week as it turns its assault to Ukraine's south and east. Ukrainian troops recaptured towns devastated by nearly six weeks of war, including Bucha, where dead civilians lined the streets.
Volodymyr Zelenskiy urged his compatriots on Tuesday to stay calm as Russia amasses troops on the border. The rare sanctions threat from the US comes as NATO places forces on standby and reinforces eastern Europe with more ships and fighter jets in response to Russia's troop build-up.
Biden made no major demands of India, a key strategic ally in US plans to contain growing Chinese power in the Asia-Pacific region, and there was no indication of significant progress toward a unified posture on the Ukraine conflict.
In Warsaw, Polish Defence Minister Mariusz Blaszczak hailed the deployment, saying that "deterrence and solidarity are the best response to Moscow's aggressive policy, to the aggressive attempt at reconstructing the Russian empire.”
The Coromandel Express, which runs from Kolkata to Chennai, derailed and fell on the opposite track, with many people still trapped, the reports said.
Sheikh Mohammed added in a tweet on Twitter: "We found its executive director at the service counters, receiving customers, speeding up procedures, and contributing to clearing transactions. The secret shopper assured us that providing the service did not exceed five minutes."
The first lady arrived in Cairo from Amman, where she attended the wedding of Crown Prince Hussein. She is travelling to Morocco on Saturday before heading to Portugal, the final stop of her tour, on Monday.