Blinken cancels meeting with Lavrov, says Russian moves ‘rejection of diplomacy’

WASHINGTON, Feb 22 (Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Tuesday he had canceled a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov scheduled for Thursday after Moscow recognized two breakaway regions of Ukraine in as independent entities.

Blinken said he agreed to meet Lavrov, his counterpart, only if Russia did not invade Ukraine.

“Now that we see the invasion beginning and Russia has made clear its complete rejection of diplomacy, it makes no sense to go ahead with this meeting at this time,” Blinken told reporters. after a meeting with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba in Washington. .

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Blinken said he was still committed to diplomacy “should Moscow’s approach change” and would do everything he could “to avoid an even worse scenario, an all-out assault on all of Ukraine, including including its capital”.

“But we will not allow Russia to claim the pretext of diplomacy at the same time as it accelerates its march down the path of conflict and war,” he added.

Western nations imposed new sanctions on Russia on Tuesday after Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday recognized the breakaway regions of Donetsk and Luhansk and ordered Russian troops into eastern Ukraine to “maintain the peace”. Washington dismissed this justification for deploying troops as “nonsense”. Read more

A Reuters reporter saw a handful of tanks on the outskirts of Donetsk overnight and several explosions were heard in the city of Donetsk on Tuesday.

Washington had consulted its allies on the decision to cancel the talks, which were to take place in Europe, before informing Lavrov in a letter on Tuesday, Blinken said.

Blinken said Putin’s speech announcing the measures was “deeply disturbing” and showed the world that Putin viewed Ukraine as “subordinate to Russia”.

The United States and its allies will continue to escalate sanctions if Russia further escalates its aggression against Ukraine, the secretary of state said.

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Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk and Simon Lewis Editing by Chris Reese, Jonathan Oatis and Karishma Singh

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