The US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, on Thursday summoned his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, with whom he had a tense face-to-face meeting in Stockholm (Sweden), to choose the diplomatic path to overcome the current crisis in the east of Ukraine, and has warned that Moscow will pay “a high price” if it persists on the path of confrontation.
Blinken and Lavrov have met in the framework of the meeting of foreign ministers of the OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe), amid the escalation of tension produced by the concentration of more than 114,000 Russian soldiers on the border with Ukraine, according to US intelligence services.
The head of US diplomacy has urged the Russian authorities to withdraw troops from the border and withdraw them to their usual positions to de-escalate the crisis. Before the more than 50 ministers of the OSCE members, Blinken has accused Moscow of breaching the Minsk peace accords, which allowed the ceasefire in Ukraine, and has demanded the free access of OSCE observers to all conflict zones. “We are deeply concerned about Russia’s plans to launch a new aggression against Ukraine,” he said, after demanding that it respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of that country.
For his part, Lavrov has announced that Moscow will soon present proposals for a new “security pact in Europe” that would prevent an expansion of NATO towards the East and would put an end to the current crisis, in his words. Although the head of Russian diplomacy has not detailed the proposals, President Vladimir Putin warned this week that the deployment of attack weapons in Ukraine (in an apparent allusion to short-range missiles) is a “red line” that for his country trespassing would be unacceptable. Russia is seeking what Lavrov calls “long-term security guarantees”, which would include limiting Western military aid to the Kiev government and closing the door to a future incorporation of Ukraine into NATO, for which there is still no date. . It also seeks the reestablishment of privileged channels of relationship such as those that Putin had with the Trump Administration.
Lavrov has linked the “return to the nightmare scenario of a military confrontation” to NATO’s aim to bring its infrastructures closer to Russia’s borders. And he has blamed those who encourage Kiev to forcibly take back the areas controlled by pro-Russian separatist militias. Also, according to the Interfax agency, he has told Blinken that Russia would respond if Ukraine became involved in US “geopolitical games.” This was the highest-level meeting between Washington and Moscow since the summit that Presidents Joe Biden and Putin held last June in Geneva (Switzerland).
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Previously, the head of US diplomacy has met with his Ukrainian counterpart, Dmitro Kuleba, with whom he has discussed a “comprehensive package of measures”, including “tough economic sanctions”, that deter Russia from attacking his country. Kuleba has denied that Kiev intends to attack the rebel regions of Donetsk and Lugansk and has assured that he is “committed” to a peaceful resolution of the conflict in the east of the country.
For her part, the new head of the Foreign Office, Liz Truss, has transferred to Lavrov the support of the United Kingdom to Ukraine during the meeting that both have held in Stockholm. The Spanish Minister of Foreign Affairs, José Manuel Albares, has also defended, before meeting with his Russian counterpart, the territorial integrity of Ukraine, with express mention of the Crimean peninsula, annexed by Russia in 2014.
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