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US and Russia meet Ukraine’s future in the balance and invasion fears rise

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US and Russia meet Ukraine’s future in the balance and invasion fears rise

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Top diplomats from the United States and Russia met for critical talks on Friday as a week-long standoff over Ukraine put the country’s future in jeopardy amid growing fears of a Russian invasion.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov were meeting early Friday in Geneva, Switzerland, the culmination of yet another diplomatic scramble across Europe in a bid to head off a potentially devastating new conflict. .

Washington has expressed growing concerns about an impending Russian invasion. The Kremlin massed more than 100,000 troops on its neighbor’s doorstep for weeks, but repeatedly denied plans to invade.

Previous talks made little progress as the United States and its NATO allies rejected Moscow’s demands over the Western alliance’s relationship with Ukraine and other former Soviet states.

Both sides dampened hopes for progress on Friday.

“We don’t expect to resolve our differences here today. But I hope and expect that we can test whether the path of diplomacy or dialogue remains open,” Blinken told Lavrov. “This is a critical moment.”

Lavrov, meanwhile, said he “didn’t expect a breakthrough in these negotiations either. What we expect are concrete responses to our concrete proposals.

Ukrainian soldiers patrol the frontline of an ongoing conflict with Russian-backed separatists in the east of the country that has killed 14,000 people.Wolfgang Schwan/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The United States and its European allies have sought to present a united front, warning of “serious” consequences, including harsh economic sanctions.

“We have been very clear throughout the process if Russian military forces cross the Ukrainian border and commit further acts of aggression against Ukraine that will be met with a united and stern and swift response from the United States and our allies and partners,” Blinken told reporters on Thursday. .

His comments came after President Joe Biden predicted Russian President Vladimir Putin would invade. “I guess he’s going to move in, he has to do something.”

Biden has been criticized for distinguishing between a ‘minor incursion’ and a full-scale attack, suggesting there are divisions within the transatlantic alliance over how to react to a smaller-scale Russian operation .

“It depends on what he does. It’s one thing if it’s a minor incursion and we end up having to fight over what to do and what not to do,” the president said during a briefing. a press conference on Wednesday to mark one year in office.

Biden’s comments drew swift criticism from Washington to Kyiv, with some accusing the president of giving Russia the green light to launch an attack.

He sought to clarify his remarks on Thursday, saying any movement of Russian troops into Ukraine would be considered an invasion.

Biden said if Russia launched an invasion, it would be “the most important thing that has happened in the world since World War II.”

After meeting Ukraine’s president in Kyiv and senior British, French and German diplomats in Berlin this week, Blinken confronts Lavrov in a meeting that promises to be a possible last-ditch effort at dialogue.

He repeated warnings from the West on Friday, saying the United States and its allies were committed to diplomacy, but were also committed, “if that proves impossible, and Russia decides to continue aggression against Ukraine, to a united, rapid and severe response”.

Abigail Williams , Dan DeLuce, Tatyana Chistikova and Associated Press contributed.

US and Russia meet Ukraine’s future in the balance and invasion fears rise

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