US and Russia try to cool down in Ukraine crisis



The United States and Russia have sought to lower the temperature amid a heated stalemate over Ukraine, even as they reported no breakthrough in high-stakes, high-level talks on Friday aimed at averting another round of talks. fearsome Russian invasion.

With seemingly intractable and objectionable demands, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov met in Geneva for about 90 minutes at what Blinken said was a “critical moment”.

But there was no clear move on either side, and Blinken said the US and its allies remained steadfast in refusing Russia’s most important demands.

However, Blinken told Foreign Minister Lavrov that the United States would send Russia a written response to its proposals next week and hinted that the two might meet again shortly thereafter.

With an estimated 100,000 Russian troops gathered near Ukraine, many fear Moscow is preparing for an invasion, although Russia denies it. The US and its allies are trying to put together a united front to prevent that or coordinate a harsh response if they can’t.

“We don’t expect any major breakthroughs today, but I believe we are on a clearer path to understanding each other’s positions,” Blinken told reporters after the meeting.

Blinken said Lavrov repeated Russia’s insistence that it had no plans to invade Ukraine but stressed that the US and its allies were not convinced of that.

“We are looking at what is visible, and it is deeds and actions and not words that make the difference,” he said, adding that Russia should withdraw its troops from the Ukrainian border if They want to prove their point.

Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Lavrov called the talks “constructive and useful” and said the US had agreed to provide written responses to Russia’s requests to Ukraine and NATO next week. That could at least delay any impending invasion by a few days.

But Foreign Minister Lavrov declined to describe the US commitment.

“I can’t say if we’re on the right track,” he told reporters. “We will understand that when we receive a written US response to all of our proposals.”

Moscow has asked the NATO alliance to promise that Ukraine – a former Soviet republic – will never be allowed to join. It also wants its allies to remove troops and military equipment from parts of Eastern Europe.

The US and its NATO allies flatly denied those requests, saying that Russian President Vladimir Putin knew they had no problem. They have said they are open to less dramatic moves.

Blinken said the US would be open to a meeting between Putin and US President Joe Biden if it was “productive and productive.” The two leaders met once in Geneva and had a number of virtual conversations about Ukraine that mostly proved unconvincing.

Washington and its allies have repeatedly promised “severe” consequences such as imposing economic sanctions – though not military action – against Russia should an invasion take place.

Blinken echoed that warning on Friday. He said the United States and its allies were committed to diplomacy but also committed “if that is not possible and Russia decides to pursue aggressive action against Ukraine, with a united, swift and severe response.” notch.”

But he said he also wanted to use the opportunity to share directly with Foreign Minister Lavrov some “concrete ideas to address some of the concerns that you have raised, as well as deep concerns that many have raised.” some of us have about Russia’s actions.”

Ukraine has been besieged by conflict. Russia’s Putin took control of Ukraine’s Crimea Peninsula in 2014 and backs a separatist insurgency in eastern Ukraine, part of a simmering but largely deadlocked conflict with Ukrainian forces. claimed the lives of more than 14,000 people. Putin has faced minor international consequences for those moves, but the West says a new invasion would be different.

Ahead of his meeting with Foreign Minister Lavrov, Blinken met with the Ukrainian president in Kyiv and top British, French and German diplomats in Berlin this week.

Adding to the repeated verbal warnings against Russia, the United States stepped up sanctions on Thursday. The US Treasury Department has taken new measures against four Ukrainian officials. Blinken said the four were at the heart of a Kremlin effort that began in 2020 to undermine Ukraine’s ability to “operate independently.”

On Friday, the Russian Foreign Ministry reaffirmed NATO’s demand that NATO not expand into Ukraine, not deploy alliance weapons near Russia’s borders, and that coalition forces withdraw from Central and Eastern Europe.

Meanwhile, the State Department issued three statements – two about Russia’s “disinformation”, including specifically about Ukraine, and another titled “Actions to expose and disrupt the War”. Russia’s destructive epidemic in Ukraine.” The documents accuse Russia and Putin of trying to rebuild the former Soviet Union through intimidation and force.

The Russian Foreign Ministry mocked those claims, saying that the Orwellian “Ministry of Truth” must have prepared them, and Lavrov substantiated them.

“I hope that not everyone in the State Department is working on those documents and that there are some who are working on the nature of our proposals and their content,” he said. .

The Russian Foreign Ministry also refuted Western claims that Moscow was trying to rebuild the Soviet empire and create its sphere of influence in Eastern Europe, arguing that the West thinks in terms of spheres of influence. .

Blinken has gone to great lengths to emphasize the United States’ solidarity with its allies to counter a possible Russian invasion, something that happened earlier this week when Biden was criticized. widely said that retaliation for Russia’s aggression in Ukraine would depend on the details and that “small intrusions” could cause discord among Western allies.

On Thursday, Biden sought to clarify his comments by warning that any movement of Russian troops across the Ukrainian border would constitute an invasion and that Moscow would “pay dearly” for it. such an action.

“I’ve been completely clear with President Putin,” Biden said. “He made no mistake: Any, any assembled Russian unit moving across the Ukrainian border, that is an invasion.”

Russia on Thursday accused the West of plotting “provocations” in Ukraine, citing British military transport planes that had delivered weapons to the country in recent days.


Vladimir Isachenkov in Moscow contributed.

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