Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Tuesday in what a State Department spokesperson said was an effort to deescalate the heightened tensions between Russia and Ukraine.
In a statement following the call, State Department spokesperson Ned Price said Blinken stressed the “unshakable U.S. commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
The call between Blinken and his Russian counterpart came just a few hours before the secretary of State is scheduled to depart for Ukraine to meet with President Volodymyr Zelensky and Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba.
Blinken also “stressed the importance of continuing a diplomatic path to de-escalate tensions surrounding the deeply troubling Russian military buildup in and near Ukraine,” Price said.
He added that Blinken told Lavrov that “any discussion of European security must include NATO Allies and European partners, including Ukraine.”
The Russian Foreign Ministry did not immediately respond to The Hill’s request for comment.
Fears of a Russian invasion of Ukraine have mounted, with White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan warning on Thursday that Russia is preparing a “false flag” operation to use as a pretext to launch an offensive against Kyiv on top of its buildup of more than 100,000 troops on Ukraine’s eastern border.
Russian President Vladimir Putin‘s spokesman said on Sunday that Russia began its military buildup along the Ukrainian border because it could no longer “tolerate” NATO’s eastward expansion and “gradual invasion” of Ukraine.
The U.S. envoy to the Organization for Security and Cooperation (OSCE) in Europe warned on Thursday that the “drumbeat of war is sounding loud.”
However, Russia has denied that it is planning to invade Ukraine, after U.S. and Russian officials met in Geneva last week for talks that lasted nearly eight hours.
He added the Russians had told their U.S. counterparts “that all measures for the combat training of troops and forces are carried out within our territory” and that there was “no reason to fear any escalation scenario in this regard”.
After meeting Ukrainian officials, Blinken will travel to Berlin, Germany, to meet with German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock and hold a meeting with the Transatlantic Quad, which includes the U.S., France, the United Kingdom and Germany.