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‘We are still talking’: Biden envoys push for diplomacy as tensions between Russia and Ukraine grow

Prior to his trip, Blinken spoke on Tuesday with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and discussed last week's negotiations in Europe, Price said in a reading of the call. Blinken "stressed the importance of continuing a diplomatic path to de-escalate tensions" and "reiterated the United States' unwavering commitment to Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity."

Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the US ambassador to the UN, cited Blinken's call to Lavrov as proof that the US "continues to engage with the Russians" and denied that "negotiations have broken down" between Washington and Moscow. "We put diplomacy at the forefront of all our commitments to address this issue," she said at a Washington Post Live event.

At the same time, Thomas-Greenfield was blunt about the potential for a Russian invasion of Ukraine. The troop building and the forthcoming joint military exercises between Russia and Belarus near the Ukrainian border "signal to us that the Russians are looking at Ukraine in an aggressive manner," she said, and Moscow's actions "show us that they are making moves that suggest that. they have plans to invade. ”

Thomas-Greenfield also addressed reports that Russia has begun emptying its embassy in Kiev, warning: "Any action we have seen that the Russians have taken that may indicate that they are moving forward will cause us to increase our efforts, too. "

The statements from the US envoy to the UN come after three rounds of negotiations last week in Geneva, Brussels and Vienna, where the United States and NATO failed to achieve a breakthrough with Russia. The two sides were locked in by Russia's demands that NATO withdraw its presence in the Baltics and Eastern Europe and that Ukraine and Georgia be permanently excluded from joining the military alliance.

The Biden administration then confirmed last Friday that Russia had deployed operations in Ukraine to carry out a possible false flag operation, which Moscow could use as a pretext to launch an invasion. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov denied on Sunday that Russian troops were on Ukrainian soil, saying Russia and the West remain "on completely different tracks" after their talks. To further aggravate the security situation, Ukraine on Sunday accused Russia of committing a cyber attack last week that temporarily deactivated several government websites.

Against this awful background, Blinken now travels to Kiev, where he will meet on Wednesday with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba "to strengthen the United States' commitment to Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity," Price said. Blinken will also meet with U.S. embassy staff and their families "to communicate the ministry's efforts to plan for contingency if Russia chooses to escalate further."

In Berlin, Blinken will meet on Thursday with German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock and participate in a meeting of the Transatlantic Quad - which consists of the United States, France, Germany and the United Kingdom. While there, Blinken will "discuss recent diplomatic engagements with Russia and joint efforts to deter further Russian aggression against Ukraine, including the readiness of allies and partners to impose massive consequences and serious economic costs on Russia," Price said.

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