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Blinken to meet with Russian and Ukrainian officials as tensions rise over possible invasion of Ukraine

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken will meet with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, to defuse a crisis with Moscow over a possible Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The State Department said Blinken would travel to Kyiv on Wednesday to meet with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, then move on to Berlin where he will meet with his counterparts from Germany, Britain, and France, then on Friday, in Geneva, he will meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, according to the Associated Press (AP).

Antony Blinken’s hurried trip comes as the Biden administration works to try to dissuade Russia from invading neighboring Ukraine, which has expressed great concern about 100,000 Russian troops along its border.

Blinken’s meeting with Lavrov was arranged during a phone call on Tuesday. It will be a continuation of inconclusive diplomatic talks last week between U.S. and European officials and their Russian counterparts in which they failed to resolve disagreements. 

Following those meetings, the Biden administration accused Russia of preparing a “false flag operation” as a pretext for invading Ukraine.

Blinken will meet with Zelenskyy and Dmytro Kuleba, Ukraine’s foreign minister, on Wednesday “to reinforce the United States’ commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” the State Department said.

“The trip follows extensive diplomacy with our European Allies and partners about a united approach to address the threat Russia poses to Ukraine and our joint efforts to encourage it to choose diplomacy and de-escalation in the interests of security and stability,” he said, according to AP. 

“We are now at a stage where Russia could at any point launch an attack on Ukraine,” a senior State Department official said, CNBC reported

He added that “President Putin created this crisis by enacting 100,000 Russian troops along Ukraine’s borders. This includes moving Russian forces into Belarus over the weekend. This is neither an exercise nor a normal troop movement. It is a show of strength designed to cause or give a false pretext for a crisis as Russia plans for a possible invasion.”

Meanwhile, the Russian government came out to deny accusations of a possible false flag to invade its neighboring country.

“So far, all these statements have been unsubstantiated and not backed up by anything,” spokesman Dmitry Peskov told the TASS news agency.

For the Kremlin, it is Ukraine and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) who seek military conflict and claim that Ukrainian armies and NATO forces have violated the ceasefire guaranteed by the Minsk agreements.

Putin stated that he did not want to go to war, that the territory of Ukraine was ‘historically’ Russian, and only with the fall of the Soviet Union was it awarded to Ukraine. However, in 2014 he invaded Crimea and is now advocating for the rights of many people who still see themselves as Russians and are mistreated by Ukrainians, so they seek independence from Ukraine.

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