President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin have agreed "in principle" to a summit, French President Emmanuel Macron's office announced Sunday night.
The announcement comes as a U.S. official said Sunday that United States intelligence learned that Russian front-line military officials were given orders to proceed with an invasion of Ukraine.
News of the intelligence was first reported on by The Washington Post.
That intelligence prompted President Joe Biden’s stark warning on Friday that he was “convinced [Putin has] made the decision” to invade Ukraine, and such an attack could happen in the coming days.
The president, in his remarks last week, attributed that assessment to "significant intelligence capability" of the U.S. government.
Russia has repeatedly denied that it plans to invade Ukraine, but on Sunday rescinded earlier pledges to pull tens of thousands of its troops back from Ukraine’s northern border and extended joint military drills with ally Belarus near Ukraine’s northern border. Russia also held nuclear drills on Saturday and naval drills in the Black Sea.
U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan said Monday morning that “all signs look like President Putin and the Russians are proceeding with a plan to execute a major military invasion of Ukraine.”
“We have seen just in the last 24 hours, further moves of Russian units to the border, with no other good explanation other than they're getting into position to attack,” Sullivan told ABC’s “Good Morning America.” “We couldn't predict the exact time or day, but it certainly looks like the Russians are proceeding.”
Sullivan said on NBC's "Today" on Monday that Russia is planning an "extremely violent" invasion of Ukraine, which could happen "in the coming hours or days."
"We also have intelligence to suggest that there will be an even greater form of brutality because this will not simply be some conventional war between two armies," he said. "It will be a war waged by Russia on the Ukrainian people, to repress them, to crush them."
The U.S. and its allies have threatened crushing sanctions should Russia move forward with an invasion of Ukraine.
"If Russia further invades Ukraine, the United States, together with our allies and partners, will impose significant, and unprecedented economic costs," Vice President Kamala Harris said at the Munich Security Conference on Saturday.
Macron's office wrote in a statement Sunday night that Biden and Putin agreed "in principle" to a summit following separate conversations with the two leaders. The summit "can only be held if Russia does not invade Ukraine."
Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will prepare for the summit during their meeting, which is set for Thursday.
"As the President has repeatedly made clear, we are committed to pursuing diplomacy until the moment an invasion begins," White House press secretary Jen Psaki wrote in a statement Sunday night. "Secretary Blinken and Foreign Minister Lavrov are scheduled to meet later this week in Europe, provided Russia does not proceed with military action."
"President Biden accepted in principle a meeting with President Putin following that engagement, again, if an invasion hasn’t happened," she continued. "We are always ready for diplomacy."
"We are also ready to impose swift and severe consequences should Russia instead choose war," Psaki added. "And currently, Russia appears to be continuing preparations for a full-scale assault on Ukraine very soon."
Sullivan said on "GMA" Monday that the U.S. is still open to diplomacy, but "the likelihood there's a diplomatic solution, given the troop movements of the Russians, is diminishing hour by hour.”
A spokesperson for the Kremlin said Monday that a summit between Biden and Putin is "feasible" but that it's "premature" to discuss firm plans for such a meeting.
“I can say that an understanding has been reached that we need to continue the dialogue at the level of ministers," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Monday. "But to talk about some kind of concrete plans about organizing any summits is for now premature.”
The Kremlin also responded angrily Monday to a New York Times report that the U.S. administration has sent a letter to the United Nations human rights chief claiming that Moscow has compiled a list of Ukrainians to be killed or sent to detention camps after the invasion.
The likely targets, according to the letter, would include journalists, dissidents, members of religious or ethnic minorities and members of the LGBTQ+ community.
Specifically, we have credible information that indicates Russian forces are creating lists of identified Ukrainians to be killed or sent to camps following a military occupation," the letter, signed by Bathsheba Nell Crocker, the U.S. representative to the European Office of the United Nations, reads. "We also have credible information that Russian forces will likely use lethal measures to disperse peaceful protests or otherwise counter peaceful exercises of perceived resistance from civilian populations."
Peskov called it a false claim and said that no such list exists.
“This is absolutely made up,” Peskov said Monday. “There is no such list. This is a fake.”
It's worth noting that other outlets, including ABC News, have similar reporting.
President Biden canceled a planned trip to his home in Wilmington, Delaware, on Sunday for the Presidents’ Day holiday, and instead stayed in Washington, D.C., where he convened a meeting of the National Security Council and had a call with French President Macron on the ongoing situation between Russia and Ukraine.
Biden's meeting on Sunday included Secretary of State Blinken, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, Gen. Mark Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, CIA Director William Burns, Sullivan and White House Homeland Security Advisor Dr. Liz Sherwood-Randall.
Name plates for White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain and Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines were also visible in a photo of the meeting, shared by The White House on Twitter Sunday afternoon.
Earlier Sunday, Blinken told CNN that Russia's "playbook" for an invasion of Ukraine is "moving forward."
“As we've described it, everything leading up to the actual invasion appears to be taking place," he said on CNN's "State of the Union" on Sunday. "All of this, along with the false flag operations we’ve seen unfold over the weekend, tells us the playbook ... is moving forward."
"Now they're justifying the continuation of 'exercises' that they said would end now, the continuation indefinitely of those 'exercises' on the situation in eastern Ukraine, a situation that they created by continuing to ramp up tensions," Blinken added.
It's worth noting that Belarus, not Russia, announced the extension of the drills. NATO estimates put the number of Russian troops in Belarus at 30,000.
The United States on Friday upped its estimate of Russia’s troop strength for a possible Ukraine invasion to as many as 190,000, up from about 100,000 on Jan. 30, according to Michael Carpenter, the permanent U.S. representative to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
The new estimate includes pro-Russian separatists inside Ukraine, the Russian National Guard and Russian troops in Crimea, which were not counted in previous assessments. A U.S. military official told The Associated Press that an estimated 40% to 50% of the ground forces surrounding Ukraine had moved into attack positions closer to the border.
The president called on Moscow to choose diplomacy as Russia continued to surge troops at Ukraine’s border, fueling fears of an imminent invasion that could threaten Europe’s post-Cold War security order.
“Russia has a choice: between war and all the suffering that will bring, or diplomacy that will make a future safer for everyone,” Biden said from the White House. “There are many issues that divide our nation and our world. But standing up to Russian aggression is not one of them.”
Blinken, the nation’s top diplomat, said that Biden is willing to talk to Putin “at any time, in any format” in order to prevent war.
“We believe President Putin has made the decision, but until the tanks are actually rolling, and the planes are flying, we will use every opportunity and every minute we have to see if diplomacy can still dissuade President Putin from carrying this forward,” he said.
“Despite President Putin’s continued buildup of troops on the border, aggressive rhetoric and now false flag operations and flooding of disinformation globally, we still hope and wish that President Putin would make the decision to take the diplomatic path,” Kristina Kvien, the acting U.S. ambassador to Ukraine told ABC's "This Week" on Sunday.
“We have offered ways that we can address some of his security concerns, we’ve given him papers laying those out, and it would really be an easy decision for him,” Kvien added. “All he has to do is decide to take the diplomatic path.
French President Emmanuel Macron held a nearly two-hour call with Putin on Sunday before speaking to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. On Sunday, Zelenskyy pressed for a cease-fire in a Twitter post and called on Putin Saturday to meet in an attempt to resolve the crisis.
Zelenskyy also criticized the West for not announcing sanctions ahead of a Russian invasion.
Sullivan told NBC’s “Today” show Monday that “Russia understands exactly what the scope and nature of the sanctions they will face are as a deterrent measure.”
Macron’s office said both the Ukrainian and Russian leaders had agreed to work toward a diplomatic solution “in coming days and coming weeks.”
Following the call with Macron, Putin blamed Ukraine for the escalation at the contact line and NATO for “pumping modern weapons and ammunition” into Ukraine. The Kremlin statement mentioned a cease-fire only in passing and made no mention of Zelenskyy’s call for a meeting.
Macron also spoke to U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Sunday.
"The Prime Minister noted that President Putin’s commitments to President Macron were a welcome sign that he might still be willing to engage in finding a diplomatic solution," according to a readout of the call released by Downing Street. "The Prime Minister stressed that Ukraine’s voice must be central in any discussions."
"The leaders agreed on the need for both Russia and Ukraine to meet their commitments under the Minsk Agreements in full," the statement continued. "They also underscored the need for President Putin to step back from his current threats and withdraw troops from Ukraine’s border."
Meanwhile, the U.S. Embassy in Moscow issued a new warning Sunday urging Americans to stay alert and avoid crowds in order to stay safe.
"According to media sources, there have been threats of attacks against shopping centers, railway and metro stations, and other public gathering places in major urban areas, including Moscow and St. Petersburg as well as in areas of heightened tension along the Russian border with Ukraine," the alert reads.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.