Ukraine tension: Urgent US-Russia talks in Geneva as invasion fears grow

Ukraine tension: Urgent US-Russia talks in Geneva as invasion fears grow

Ukraine tension: Urgent US-Russia talks in Geneva as invasion fears grow

Written by Amani Nilar

21 Jan, 2022 | 3:41 pm

(News 1st); US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov are due to hold talks in Geneva amid mounting fears that Russia could be about to invade Ukraine.

On Thursday (20), Secretary Blinken warned Moscow of grave consequences if any of its forces crossed the border.

Russia has 100,000 troops at the border, but denies planning to invade.

President Vladimir Putin has issued demands to the West, including that Ukraine be stopped from joining Nato.

He wants the Western defensive alliance to abandon military exercises and stop sending weapons to eastern Europe, which Moscow sees as its backyard.

Russia seized and annexed the Crimean peninsula in southern Ukraine in 2014. Ever since, Ukraine’s military has been locked in a war with Russian-backed rebels in areas near the border. The conflict has claimed 14,000 lives and caused at least two million people to flee their homes.

The summit between the top US and Russian diplomats follows moves by Secretary Blinken to secure US allies’ backing for sanctions against Moscow.

After discussions in Berlin with British, French and German officials on Thursday, Blinken stated that allowing a Russian incursion into Ukraine would “drag us all back to a much more dangerous and unstable time, when this continent, and this city, were divided in two… with the threat of all-out war hanging over everyone’s heads”.

State Department officials have said that Secretary Blinken will seek to offer Lavrov a “diplomatic off-ramp” to ease tensions.

His comments came after US President Joe Biden on Wednesday predicted that Russia “will move in” on Ukraine and warned of a “disaster for Russia”.

But he also appeared to suggest that a “minor incursion” could attract a weaker response from the US and its allies.

The message provoked a rebuke from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who tweeted: “There are no minor incursions. Just as there are no minor casualties and little grief from the loss of loved ones.”

Speaking alongside Blinken, Germany’s new Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock pledged immediate action against any Russian invasion and did not rule out imposing measures that “could have economic consequences for ourselves”.

The UK’s Foreign Secretary Liz Truss has also called on President Putin to “desist and step back from Ukraine before he makes a massive strategic mistake” that would lead to terrible loss of life.

In a speech on Friday in Sydney, she urged Western powers to “step up” and warned that autocratic nations were being “emboldened in a way we haven’t seen since the cold war”.

Earlier this week, Britain announced it was supplying Ukraine with extra troops for training and defensive weapons.

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