Blinken, Lavrov meet for “serious” talks on Ukraine crisis

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken met his Russian counterpart yesterday to warn him about the “serious consequences” that Russia would suffer if it invaded Ukraine and to urge him to seek a diplomatic exit from the crisis.

r Blinken handed the warning to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov at a meeting in Stockholm, a day after declaring that Washington was ready to react decisively, including with severe sanctions, in the event of a Russian attack.

“The best way to avoid the crisis is through diplomacy,” Blinken told reporters before entering talks with Lavrov at a time of crisis. tensions over Ukraine.

He said Moscow and Kiev should each fulfill their obligations under the 2014 Minsk peace process, which aimed to end a war between pro-Russian separatists and Ukrainians. in the east of the former Soviet republic.

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

Lavrov told reporters that Moscow was ready to engage in dialogue with Kiev. “We, as president [Vladimir] Putin said he didn’t want conflicts, ”he said.

The two men spoke for about thirty minutes on the sidelines of a meeting of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in the Swedish capital, at the highest level between the two parties since a summit between Mr. Putin and US President Joe Biden in June.

“If Moscow chooses the path of military escalation, the secretary [Blinken] clearly the United States and our allies are prepared to impose significant costs, ”State Department spokesman Ned Price said.

A senior department official said Blinken and Lavrov had a “serious, sober and professional” meeting.

The official said there had been a constructive exchange on the implementation of the existing Minsk peace accords for eastern Ukraine as a possible way out of the crisis, and that an intense new diplomacy was likely in the next few days.

Ukraine claims Russia has amassed more than 90,000 troops near its long shared border, while Moscow accuses Kiev of continuing its own military build-up.

He has dismissed as inflammatory suggestions that he is preparing for an attack on Ukraine and has defended his right to deploy troops in his own territory as he sees fit.

The Kremlin said the likelihood of a new conflict in eastern Ukraine remained high and Moscow was concerned about Kiev’s “aggressive” rhetoric and an increase in what it called provocative actions along of the line of contact between government forces and pro-Russian separatists.

Kiev has denied any intention of trying to take back rebel areas by force, accusing Russia of spouting “absurd propaganda” in order to cover up its own aggressive intentions.

Russia has separately said it has arrested three suspected Ukrainian secret service agents, including one accused of planning an attack using two homemade bombs, allegations Kiev has dismissed as falsified.

Last week, the Ukrainian president said Kiev foiled a Russian-backed coup plot, which the Kremlin denied.

East-West relations have fallen to their lowest level since the Cold War, a point made by accident by US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin when he said during a visit to South Korea: “The best case is that we will not see an incursion of the Soviet Union into Ukraine.”

Christi C. Elwood