Top diplomats for U.S., Russia meet in Geneva on soaring Ukraine tensions


GENEVA (Reuters) – The high diplomats of Russia and the United States had been to meet in Switzerland on Friday to debate soaring tensions over Ukraine after a flurry of conferences between officers on each side in the final week produced no breakthroughs.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived in Geneva for talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov following a swing via Europe to shore up U.S. allies’ commitments to hit Russia with sanctions if it goes forward with an invasion of Ukraine.

Washington’s hopes of constructing a united entrance of opposition to Moscow had been difficult by U.S. President Joe Biden’s feedback at a information convention on Wednesday in which he predicted Russia would “transfer in” on Ukraine and mentioned Moscow would pay dearly.

Russia has massed tens of 1000’s of troops on its borders with Ukraine, and Western states concern Moscow is planning a brand new assault on a rustic it invaded in 2014 to annex the Crimean peninsula. Russia denies it’s planning an assault, however says it may take unspecified navy motion if a listing of calls for aren’t met, together with a promise from NATO by no means to confess Ukraine.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, requested about Biden’s feedback, mentioned Russia had been receiving related warnings for at the very least a month.

“We consider that they in no approach contribute to defusing the stress that has now arisen in Europe and, furthermore, can contribute to the destabilization of the scenario,” Peskov mentioned.

In Kyiv on Wednesday Blinken sought to reassure Ukraine of U.S. help. Blinken, earlier than assembly with German, French and British officers in Berlin on Thursday, mentioned Russian President Vladimir Putin may order an invasion imminently.

Blinken’s deputy, Wendy Sherman, and Lavrov’s deputy, Sergei Ryabkov, additionally met in Geneva final week, the place each side set out seemingly irreconcilable positions.

Russia desires NATO to vow to not admit Ukraine as a member and halt its eastward enlargement. The U.S.-led alliance has rejected that.

U.S. officers have performed down hopes of concrete outcomes from Friday’s assembly.

Blinken, repeatedly calling out what he referred to as Russian “disinformation” aimed toward destabilizing Ukraine, mentioned on Thursday the diplomatic efforts this week meant he may characterize a shared view of Western nations to Russia on Friday and press Moscow to step again.

“That unity gives us strength – a strength I might add that Russia does not and cannot match,” Blinken mentioned. “And it’s why… I’ll be able to represent a shared view, a shared preference, on the part of the United States and our European allies and partners for finding a diplomatic path forward to de-escalate this conflict.”


But that unity gave the impression to be undermined by feedback by Biden, who mentioned on Wednesday that the West’s response might not be unified if Russia solely makes a “minor incursion” into Ukraine. The feedback compelled administration officers to subject clarifications, however they raised doubts amongst U.S. allies that Washington was keen to provide Putin some leeway to avert a full-scale invasion.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy tweeted an obvious rebuke on Thursday, reminding “the nice powers that there are not any minor incursions and small nations. Just as there are not any minor casualties and little grief from the lack of family members.”

Orysia Lutsevych, a Ukraine analyst on the Chatham House think-tank in London, mentioned the Geneva assembly would give the United States the prospect to make clear Biden’s feedback.

“Hopefully Blinken will be capable to straighten out a few of this ambiguity, if he has the mandate,” she mentioned. There was a “sure irritation” on the Ukrainian aspect that the West was not turning rhetorical help into extra concrete motion.

But in the separatist stronghold of Donetsk in japanese Ukraine, residents interviewed by Reuters mentioned they had been assured of Russia’s backing.

“I consider in Putin, he should assist us, he mustn’t abandon us. We all hope so. I do not know this Biden and I do not wish to know him, however I consider in Russia,” mentioned a pensioner who gave her identify as Tatyana.

Another resident, a 28-year-old named Alexander, mentioned there was a small likelihood of a peaceable end result.

“For the way forward for our youthful brothers, sisters and kids. I hope that in their negotiations they are going to attain the purpose that every one of us and them want, and we are going to lastly return to peace and concord,” he mentioned.

(Reporting by Simon Lewis; Additional reporting by Alexander Ermochenko in Donetsk and Mark Trevelyan in London; Editing by Mary Milliken and Grant McCool)

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