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Photo: Peter Klaunzer-Pool/Keystone via Getty Images

President Biden will speak with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday afternoon, ahead of a series of diplomatic talks in January over Russia's military buildup on its border with Ukraine.

Why it matters: The call — which was requested by Putin, according to a senior Biden administration official — will mark the second time the two leaders have spoken this month.

  • With more than 100,000 troops massing on the border with Ukraine, U.S. officials have warned that Russia could launch a large-scale invasion as soon as next month.
  • Putin has laid out a series of maximalist demands for scaling back U.S. and NATO activity in Europe, warning that the alliance's expansion and cooperation with Ukraine is threatening Russia's security.

What they're saying: A senior administration official said they could not speak specifically to why Putin had requested the phone call, but noted that Biden is always prepared to speak directly with his counterparts at times of heightened tensions.

  • "President Biden will make clear that there is a diplomatic path to de-escalating tensions in the region, if President Putin is interested in taking it," the official said.
  • The official added that the U.S. has developed its own detailed list of concerns with Russia's behavior and the security situation in Europe, but that they plan to discuss it with the Russians behind closed doors, rather than in public.

The big picture: The U.S. and Russia agreed this week to hold bilateral talks on Jan. 10, followed by a meeting of the Russia-NATO Council on Jan. 12 and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) on Jan. 13.

  • The U.S. and its European allies have threatened Russia with unprecedented sanctions and an increased troop presence on NATO's eastern flank if Putin moves forward with an invasion of Ukraine.
  • Putin has demanded that NATO rule out eastward expansion and all military activity in former Soviet republics. The U.S. has said it will consider Russia's proposals but called some of them "unacceptable."

Between the lines: The Biden administration has been deliberate about coordinating with its European allies, insisting that any conversations about Europe and Ukraine's security should not take place without them at the table.

  • Secretary of State Antony Blinken held a phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Wednesday, and national security adviser Jake Sullivan is in frequent contact with his Ukrainian counterpart.
  • The Ukrainian government has asked the U.S. for more military aid to help it deter Russia, but the requests have so far gone unfulfilled as the Biden administration seeks a possible diplomatic resolution.

Editor's note: This post has been updated with new details throughout.

Go deeper

Jan 14, 2022 - World

U.S. accuses Russia of preparing "false flag" operation to attack Ukraine

Photo: Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images

The U.S. claims to have information indicating that Russia has "already prepositioned a group of operatives to conduct a false-flag operation in eastern Ukraine," laying the groundwork for a potential pretext to invade, according to a U.S. official.

Why it matters: Diplomatic talks between the U.S., its European allies and Russia failed to produce a breakthrough this week, raising fears that Moscow will invade Ukraine and unleash a devastating new war.

Updated Jan 14, 2022 - World

U.S. confirms Russia arrested REvil ransomware hackers

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaking in Moscow in June 2021. Photo: Alexei Nikolsky/TASS via Getty Images

Russia's security agency said Friday it arrested members of the Russia-based cyber gang REvil that was responsible for multiple massive ransomware attacks against U.S. companies last year.

The latest: A senior administration official confirmed on Friday afternoon that Russia informed the U.S. that it arrested the alleged hackers, including an individual responsible for the cyberattack that crippled the Colonial Pipeline.

Updated 31 mins ago - Energy & Environment

Bomb cyclone prompts blizzard warnings from Virginia to Maine

Computer model projection showing the intense storm off of Cape Cod on Jan 29, 2022, with heavy snow and strong winds lashing the coastline. (Weatherbell.com)

Blizzard warnings are in effect for 11 million people from coastal Virginia to eastern Maine as a potentially historic winter storm is set to slam the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast beginning Friday.

Why it matters: The storm will bring hazards ranging from zero visibility amid hurricane force wind gusts and heavy snow, to coastal flooding that will erode vulnerable beaches and threaten property from the Jersey shore to coastal Massachusetts.