The United States and Russia sought to lower temperatures in a heated standoff over Ukraine, even as they said no breakthrough was imminent in a crisis that has raised fears of a possible Russian invasion.
- US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said the two countries are now on a “clear path to understanding”.
- Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov called the talks “constructive and fruitful”.
- The US has agreed to give written answers next week to Russia’s demands on Ukraine and NATO
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov met in Geneva, with seemingly intractable and completely opposed demands, with Mr Blinken saying it was a “critical moment”.
With an estimated 100,000 Russian troops near Ukraine, many fear Moscow is preparing for an invasion, a claim Russia denies.
The US and its allies are scrambling to present a united front to deter such aggression – or coordinate a stern response if they cannot.
Blinken said Mr Lavrov reiterated Russia’s insistence that it had no plans to invade Ukraine, but insisted the US and its allies were not convinced.
Meanwhile, Mr Lavrov called the talks “constructive and fruitful” and said the US agreed to give a written response to Russian demands on Ukraine and NATO next week.
This can delay any impending attack for at least a few days.
But Mr. Lavrov declined to attribute that pledge.
“We’ll understand when we get America’s written response to all of our proposals.”
Moscow has demanded that the NATO alliance promise that Ukraine – a former Soviet republic – will never be allowed to join.
Russia wants to drive the West out of Eastern Europe
It also wants the Allies to remove troops and military equipment from parts of Eastern Europe.
The US and its NATO allies have vehemently rejected those demands, saying Russian President Vladimir Putin knew they were nonstarters.
He said he was open to less dramatic moves.
Mr Blinken said the US would be open to a meeting between Mr Putin and US President Joe Biden if it was “useful and productive”.
Washington and its allies have repeatedly promised “serious” consequences such as cutting economic sanctions – though not military action – against Russia if an invasion escalates.
Mr Blinken reiterated that warning on Friday ahead of talks.
He said the US and its allies remained committed to diplomacy, but also to a “united, swift and serious response” if this proved impossible and that Russia decided to pursue aggression against Ukraine.
But he said he would like to use this opportunity to share directly with Mr. Lavrov “some of the concrete ideas that you have raised, as well as to address the deep concerns those of us have about Russia’s actions.” There are many”.
Ukraine is already beset with conflict.
Mr Putin took control of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula in 2014 and backed a separatist insurgency in eastern Ukraine, part of a fierce but large-scale standoff with Ukrainian forces that killed more than 14,000 people.
Mr Putin faced limited international consequences for those moves, but the West said a new offensive would be different.
Ahead of his meeting with Mr. Lavrov, Mr. Blinken met with the President of Ukraine in Kiev and top diplomats from Britain, France and Germany in Berlin this week.
America imposes more sanctions on Russia
The United States on Thursday increased sanctions, adding to its repeated verbal warnings to Russia.
The US Treasury Department has taken new measures against four Ukrainian officials.
Mr Blinken said four were at the center of a Kremlin effort that was launched in 2020 to damage Ukraine’s ability to “act independently”.
The Russian Foreign Ministry on Friday reaffirmed its demands that NATO would not expand into Ukraine, that no coalition weapons would be deployed near Russian borders and that coalition forces would withdraw from Central and Eastern Europe.
Russia denies it is planning an invasion and instead accused the West of plotting to “incite” Ukraine on Thursday, citing weapons deliveries to the country by British military transport planes in recent days. Happened.