Blinken scraps meeting with top Russian diplomat over Ukraine

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Tuesday he would not go through with meeting Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov after Russia sent troops into eastern Ukraine as part of what Western leaders have described as the start of a broader invasion.

“Now that we see the invasion is beginning, and Russia has made clear its wholesale rejection of diplomacy, it does not make sense to go forward with that meeting at this time,” Blinken said in remarks from the State Department.

The secretary said he sent a letter to Lavrov to cancel the meeting but left the door open for diplomacy.

“I personally remain committed to diplomacy if Russia is prepared to take demonstrable steps to provide the international community with any degree of confidence that it’s serious about de-escalating and finding a diplomatic solution,” he said. 

The U.S. and international partners announced on Tuesday sanctions targeting Russian individuals and financial institutions in response to a dramatic escalation by the country against Ukraine, with Russian President Vladimir Putin mobilizing troops into the territory of its neighbor.

Putin has sought to justify military intervention in Ukraine by recognizing as independent two breakaway regions in the southeastern part of the country known as the Donbas. That area is where Western officials say Russia in 2014 manufactured a separatist uprising and supported it with a covert military presence, overt financial support and a propaganda campaign claiming that Moscow was working to defend ethnic Russians in the region. 

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba called Putin’s recognition of independence of Ukrainian territory an “absurdity.”

“In fact, what Putin recognized is not the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic and Luhansk People’s Republic, he recognized his direct responsibility for the war against Ukraine, an unprovoked and unjustified war on another sovereign state in Europe, which Russia now intensifies,” Kuleba said.

Kuleba welcomed sanctions imposed by the U.S. and called for more measures to be imposed against Russia.

“The world must respond with all its economic might to punish Russia for the crimes it has already committed and ahead of the crimes it plans to commit. Hit Russia’s economy now and hit it hard,” Kuleba said. 

Tags Antony Blinken Russian invasion of Ukraine Vladimir Putin
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