Ukrainian Long Islanders have been watching, waiting and wondering what will happen as their homeland teeters on the brink of war with Russia. Newsday's Shari Einhorn reports. Credit: James Carbone; AP; Photo Credit: AP / Andrew Harnik/Andrew Harnik

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden on Sunday night agreed to a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the Ukraine crisis under the condition Russia does not proceed with an invasion, White House officials said.

The loose agreement, brokered by French President Emmanuel Macron, came as U.S. and NATO officials warned that Russia's extension of weekend military drills along Ukraine’s northern border with Belarus pointed to an imminent attack, the White House said.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki in a statement said Biden "accepted in principle a meeting with President Putin" to be held after an upcoming meeting between U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov scheduled for this week.

Psaki reiterated that both sets of meetings would only occur "if an invasion hasn’t happened."

"We are always ready for diplomacy," Psaki said. "We are also ready to impose swift and severe consequences should Russia instead choose war. And currently, Russia appears to be continuing preparations for a full-scale assault on Ukraine very soon."

The meeting was announced hours after Biden convened a meeting of his National Security Council to discuss the latest developments in the region and abruptly canceled a trip to his home in Delaware for the Presidents Day holiday.

Biden spoke with Macron after the NSC meeting, after the French leader spoke with Putin by phone earlier in the day in the latest effort to press the Russian leader for a diplomatic solution. The Kremlin, in a statement after the call, faulted Western countries for the escalation in tensions, arguing that NATO's backing of Ukraine forces with funding, weapons and training were pushing Russia to a "military solution."

Secretary of State Antony Blinken, shown Friday at the 2022 Munich...

Secretary of State Antony Blinken, shown Friday at the 2022 Munich Security Conference, said Sunday that Russian President Vladimir Putin's plan to invade Ukraine is "moving forward." Credit: Getty Images / Alexandra Beier

Blinken and other top officials making the rounds of the Sunday morning political talk shows continued to describe a heightened risk of a Russian attack, pointing to Putin’s decision to extend military drills in Belarus that were set to expire on Sunday

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called for an immediate cease-fire as Belarus' government announced Russia planned to extend troop exercises that involved some 30,000 Russian forces.

Russian officials continued to deny plans for an invasion of Ukraine, despite amassing more than 150,000 troops along the Ukrainian border.

"Everything we're seeing tells us that the decision we believe President Putin has made to invade is moving forward," Secretary of State Antony Blinken said during an appearance on CBS' "Face the Nation."

The extended military exercises in Belarus, Blinken said, and "provocations created by the Russians or separatist forces over the weekend" in eastern Ukraine, all signaled that Putin would not pull back from an invasion.

The extended military exercises in Belarus, Blinken said, and "provocations created by the Russians or separatist forces over the weekend" in eastern Ukraine, all signaled that Putin would not pull back from an invasion.

Russia has "been escalating the forces they have across Ukraine’s borders over the last months from 50,000 forces to 100,000, to now more than 150,000," Blinken said on CNN’s "State of the Union." "So, all of this, along with the false flag operations we’ve seen unfold over the weekend, tells us that the playbook that we laid out is moving forward."

Vice President Kamala Harris, speaking to reporters Sunday before departing the Munich Security Conference in Germany, warned of the "real possibility of war in Europe."

"Let's really take a moment to understand the significance of what we're talking about," Harris said. "It's been over 70 years, that through the 70 years … there has been peace and security."

A U.S. official told the AP Sunday that Biden's assertion that Putin has made the decision to roll Russian forces into Ukraine was based on intelligence that Russian front-line commanders have been given orders to begin final preparations for an attack. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the sensitive intelligence.

The continued deployment of the Russian forces in Belarus raised concern that they could be used to sweep down on the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, a city of about 3 million people less than a three-hour drive away.

Russia’s ambassador to the United States, Anatoly Antonov, also appearing on "Face the Nation," insisted that Russia had no plans to invade Ukraine. "There is no invasion and there is no such plans," Antonov said.

Appearing separately on the CBS political talk show, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, like Blinken, said Putin’s recent actions, including the extension of military drills in Belarus, "fits into the picture that Russia is preparing for an invasion of Ukraine. "Even so, Stoltenberg said, the alliance would continue to press the Russian president to engage in diplomatic talks.

"The most important thing is to prevent a new armed attack on Ukraine, and therefore we support all efforts by NATO allies to find a political solution, and NATO's also ready to sit down in the NATO-Russia Council with Russia," Stoltenberg said.

Putin has repeatedly pressed NATO to never allow Ukraine to join the multistate alliance, but leaders for each country have pushed back, arguing that as a sovereign nation, Ukraine maintains the right to seek entrance into the decades-old alliance, formed in response to the emergence of the Soviet Union after World War II.

Antonov repeated Russia’s concerns with the future possibility of Ukraine joining NATO, arguing that the organization is "not a defensive alliance," nor a "peace-loving [nongovernmental organization.] It's political-military machinery."

Ukraine's ambassador to the United States, Oksana Markarova, appearing shortly after Antonov, pushed back on his claims that Russia had no plans to attack, pointing to reported cases of pro-Russia separatist forces launching an increasing number of attacks in eastern Ukraine.

"They started shelling our civilian objects," Markarova said. "We have already two people dead, 11 people wounded, and it keeps going as we speak."

With Rachelle Blidner and AP

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