Biden warns Putin with personal sanctions

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Tensions remained high on Tuesday as Western leaders stepped up preparations for any Russian military action in Ukraine, with U.S. President Joe Biden saying he would consider imposing direct sanctions on Russian President Vladimir Putin.

REPORTER: "Would you ever see yourself personally sanctioning him, if he did invade Ukraine?"

BIDEN: "Yes."

REPORTER: "You would?”

BIDEN: "I would see that."

NATO said it was putting forces on standby and reinforcing eastern Europe with more ships and fighter jets in response to Russia's troop build-up near the Ukrainian border.

Political analyst Andrea Kendall-Taylor of the Center for New American Security told Reuters that a Russian invasion could set off the biggest global conflict since World War Two.

"I think we're looking at potentially the most significant conflict that we have seen since World War Two. When you look at the kind of composition, the size, the capabilities that Russia is building up on Ukraine's border, it suggests that they're preparing for a relatively significant invasion scenario where they could possibly encircle Kyiv and take half of eastern Ukraine. That's something we haven't seen in decades."

But Russia has denied planning an attack, and said it was watching actions taken by the West with "great concern."

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov repeated Moscow's line that the crisis was being driven by U.S. and NATO actions, not the Russian troop build-up.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, in a televised address Tuesday, urged citizens to stay calm and said work was underway to bring about a meeting between him and the leaders of Russia, Germany and France.

"Yes, there is still shooting, yes, there are still violations of the ceasefire. And the (enemy) troops haven't disappeared from (the area) near our borders. But the main thing is that we have zero wounded and zero killed. (flash) Protect your body from viruses, your brain from lies, your heart from panic."

The U.S. Defense Department has said about 8,500 U.S. troops have been put on heightened alert and are awaiting orders to deploy to NATO's eastern flank.

Biden on Tuesday said he may move the troops in the nearer term.

A U.S. plane carrying military equipment and munitions landed in Kyiv on Tuesday, the third shipment of a $200-million security package to shore up Ukraine.

Western leaders have said unity is paramount, though differences have emerged among European nations over how best to respond.

Political advisers from Russia, Ukraine, Germany and France are due to meet in Paris on Wednesday.

Russia is demanding security guarantees from the West, including a promise by NATO never to admit Ukraine to the alliance.

Moscow sees Ukraine, a former Soviet republic, as a buffer between Russia and NATO countries.