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Blinken confronts Russia’s Lavrov over Ukraine, warns of ‘serious costs’

OSCE meeting in Stockholm
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov smile as they greet each other during a meeting of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, Stockholm, Sweden December 2, 2021. Jonathan Nackstrand / Pool via REUTERS

December 2, 2021

By Humeyra Pamuk and Johan Ahlander

(Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned Moscow of “the costs” Russia would have to pay if it invaded Ukraine, and urged his Russian counterpart on Thursday to seek a diplomatic exit from Ukraine. crisis.

Blinken issued a warning to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov at what he called a “candid” meeting in Stockholm and said Presidents Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin were likely to speak soon.

“I have made very clear our deep concerns and determination to hold Russia accountable for its actions, including its commitment to work with its allies,” Blinken told a news conference. European Union to impose severe costs and consequences on Russia should it take further aggressive action against Ukraine. after the meeting.

“Now, Russia must de-escalate the current tensions by reversing recent military build-up, returning forces to their normal positions in peacetime, and limiting further threats and attempts to destabilize them.” for Ukraine.”

Foreign Minister Lavrov, speaking to reporters ahead of talks with Blinken, said Moscow was ready for dialogue with Kyiv. “We, as President Putin has stated, do not want any conflict,” he said.

Ukraine says Russia has massed more than 90,000 troops near its longstanding shared border, while Moscow accuses Kyiv of pursuing its own army build-up. It has denied inflammatory suggestions that it is preparing an attack on its southern neighbour, and has defended the right to deploy troops on its territory as it sees fit.

Russia and Ukraine share a centuries-old history and formed the two largest republics of the Soviet Union until its collapse in 1991, so Moscow views the neighboring countries’ ambitions to join NATO as a threat. threats and threats.

Since the most recent crisis began, Moscow has demanded legally binding security guarantees from the West that NATO will not recognize Ukraine as a member or deploy systems. missiles aimed at Russia.

“We will make sure that we are heard, but the main thing is our security,” Lavrov said at a later press conference.

“So if NATO still refuses to discuss this topic or the guarantees or ideas that Russian President Vladimir Putin offers, of course we will take measures to ensure that our security, sovereignty, and our territorial integrity does not depend on anyone else. ”

However, he took a more conciliatory note by suggesting that Russia and the United States end their long-running dispute over the size of their embassies and start over.

STORY SUMMARY

The Kremlin has been talking about the possibility of a second summit between Putin and Biden for weeks. Their last took place in Geneva in June, less than two months after Russia downsized its previous 100,000 troops on the Ukrainian border.

“I think it’s likely that presidents will speak in person in the near future,” Blinken said.

The Americans declined to explain what economic sanctions Russia could face if it invaded its neighbour, saying only that “Moscow knows the universe very well what might happen”.

Russia has endured several waves of international sanctions since taking Crimea from Ukraine in 2014. But Western governments now have a potential new leverage, as Moscow awaits approval from German regulators. to begin pumping gas through a new $11 billion pipeline to be built under the Baltic Sea.

Blinken said Moscow and Kyiv should fulfill their obligations under the Minsk peace process, which is designed to end the fighting between pro-Russian separatists and Ukrainian government forces in the eastern part of the republic. Former Soviet Union.

Washington is ready to facilitate this, Blinken said, but “if Russia decides to pursue confrontation, there will be serious consequences.”

East FLASHPOINT

The Kremlin said on Thursday – ahead of the Lavrov-Blinken meeting – that the likelihood of a new conflict in eastern Ukraine remained high and Moscow was concerned by “aggressive” rhetoric from Kyiv and the rise actions it calls provocations along the lines of communication between government forces and pro-Russian separatists.

Kyiv has denied any intention of trying to take back rebel-held areas by force, accusing Russia of spreading “nonsense propaganda” to cover up its own aggressive intentions.

Russia says it alone has arrested three suspected Ukrainian intelligence officers, including one accused of planning an attack using two homemade bombs, charges Kyiv Rejection is denial.

Last week, Ukraine’s President said Kyiv had prevented a Russian-backed coup attempt, which the Kremlin denies.

East-West relations have sunk to their lowest level since the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union. US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin accidentally emphasized when he said during a visit to South Korea: “The best-case scenario… is that we don’t see the Soviet Union invade Ukraine.”

(Additional reporting by Niklas Polland, Anna Ringstrom, Simon Lewis and Andrew Osborn; Writing by Mark Trevelyan; Editing by Gareth Jones, Nick Macfie and Frances Kerry)

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DUSTIN JONES

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