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Blinken set to meet Russia’s Lavrov as Ukraine tensions flare -Breaking

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© Reuters. FILEPHOTO: U.S. Secretary Antony Blinken, and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov make a gesture when they meet at Harpa Concert Hall to discuss the Arctic Council Ministerial Summit, which took place in Reykjavik. Iceland on May 19, 2021. S

By Humeyra Pamuk

STOCKHOLM/Reuters – U.S. Secretary Antony Blinken and Sergei Lavrov will be meeting on Thursday, during a European security conference. The Russian Foreign Ministry is due to attend. These meetings are taking place amid increasing tensions regarding Moscow’s increase in troops at its border with Ukraine.

This meeting will take place in Stockholm, on the sidelines to the OSCE summit. Blinken also will be meeting separately with Dmytro Kunleba (Ukraine Foreign Minister).

Blinken spoke in Riga Wednesday, following a meeting between NATO foreign ministers.

“We are not sure if Vladimir Putin (President) has decided to invade. Blinken said that we know that he has the ability to invade quickly if he chooses.”

Without further explanation, he said the United States is prepared to respond by “a wide range of high impact economic actions that we have resisted in the past,” but he didn’t elaborate.

According to a State Department official, Blinken will likely relay to Lavrov threats of additional sanctions to Russia if Russia does not end its troop buildup at Ukraine’s borders. He also needs to remind him there is a diplomatic resolution.

According to the official, “The dialog is important whenever things aren’t going well.” “Beyond making clear the cost of Russian actions, I’m certain that the Secretary is also going to want to make clear that there is a diplomatic off-ramp.”

FLASHPOINT

Ukraine, an ex-Soviet republic, is now a main point of contention between Russia, the West, and Russia. As relations have fallen to their lowest level in over three decades, the West and Russia are at a crossroads.

According to Ukraine, Russia claims that it has sent more than 90,000. These troops are close to their shared long-term border.

Moscow claims that Kyiv is pursuing its own military buildup. While it rejected as inflammatory suggestions that Kyiv is planning to attack Ukraine, the Russian government has maintained its right for troops to be deployed on its territory as it chooses.

Putin also stated that Russia would act if NATO sent missiles to Ukraine, which could strike Moscow in minutes.

In 2014 the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea was annexed from Ukraine by the Kremlin. It then supported rebels in eastern Ukraine against Kyiv’s government forces. The conflict, Kyiv claims, has already killed 14,000 and is still simmering.

Other issues, such as cybersecurity and how the Kremlin treats its critics, have contributed to Washington’s and Moscow’s low relations post-Cold War.

Three sources informed Reuters that William Burns from the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency brought up Russian cyberattacks on a rare visit to Moscow this month. He also raised the matter with high-ranking officials in security, which he did not do often.

The refugee crisis at the border between Belarus (Russia’s ally) and NATO member Poland and Lithuania has also been a focal point of East-West tensions.

Western countries accuse Alexander Lukasenko, Belarusian leader of causing the migration crisis. This is in response to sanctions that were imposed against Minsk for its human rights records. Minsk accuses the West of creating the humanitarian crisis.

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