US President Joe Biden will use a high-stakes video conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin to tell him that Russia will be hit with the toughest economic sanctions yet if it invades Ukraine, US officials say.
They said the sanctions, which a source said could target Russia's biggest banks and Moscow's ability to convert roubles into dollars and other currencies, were designed to dissuade Putin from using thousands of troops massed near the Ukrainian border to attack.
The Kremlin has repeatedly denied harbouring such intentions and has said the posture of its troops is purely defensive.
It in turn has raised concerns about Ukrainian intentions and has said it wants guarantees that Kiev will not use force to try to retake territory lost to Russia-backed separatists.
The Russian rouble firmed on Tuesday despite the threat of new sanctions.
On Tuesday ahead of his first direct talks with Putin since July, Biden consulted with European allies on Monday to discuss plans for the sanctions against Russia and seek a strong allied stance in support of Ukraine's territorial integrity and sovereignty.
Biden spoke to French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
They called on Russia to de-escalate tensions and return to diplomacy and said their teams will stay in close touch, including in consultation with NATO allies and EU partners, on a "coordinated and comprehensive approach," the White House said.
Biden's team has identified a set of economic penalties to impose should Russia launch an invasion, a senior Biden administration official said.
A separate source familiar with the situation said targeting Putin's inner circle has been discussed but no decision had been made. Sanctions against Russia's biggest banks and the ability to convert roubles into dollars and other currencies were also being considered, another source said.
White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said it remained unclear whether Putin had made a final decision to invade Ukraine.
Ukraine and NATO powers accuse Russia of building up troops near the border, sparking fears of a possible attack.
Moscow denies any such plan and accuses Kiev of building up its own forces in its east, where Russian-backed separatists control a large part of Ukrainian territory.
The senior Biden administration official said Biden would warn Putin of severe economic penalties if he launches a war.
The US has urged both countries to return to a set of agreements signed in 2014 and 2015 and designed to end a separatist war by Russian-speakers in eastern Ukraine.
"He will make clear that there will be very real costs should Russia choose to proceed, but he will also make clear that there is an effective way forward with respect to diplomacy," the official told reporters.
In Moscow, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said the talks would focus on what Russia regards as NATO's creeping expansion towards its borders, as well as long-term security guarantees for Russia.
Putin has said he wants legally binding guarantees NATO will not expand further eastwards and a pledge that certain types of weapons will not be deployed in countries close to Russia, including Ukraine.
Australian Associated Press