Top US official to visit Russia and Ukraine for talks

Karen Donfried to reinforce United States' support for Ukraine's independence and territorial integrity

Ukrainian soldiers walks at the line of separation from pro-Russian rebels near Katerinivka, Donetsk region, Ukraine, Tuesday, Dec 7, 2021.  Ukrainian authorities on Tuesday charged that Russia is sending tanks and snipers to the line of contact in war-torn eastern Ukraine to "provoke return fire," an accusation that comes amid fears that a Russian troop buildup near the Ukrainian border might indicate plans for an invasion. AP
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Washington's top diplomat for Europe and Eurasian affairs will travel to Ukraine and Russia next week for talks about Moscow's build-up of troops, the State Department said Saturday.

Karen Donfried will be in Kyiv and Moscow from Monday to Wednesday to meet senior government officials "and to reinforce the United States' commitment to Ukraine's sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity", it added.

"Assistant Secretary Donfried will emphasise that we can make diplomatic progress on ending the conflict in the Donbas through implementation of the Minsk agreements in support of the Normandy Format," a statement read.

The 2015 Minsk Agreement aimed at halting fighting inside Ukraine, bolstered by the Normandy Format - a diplomatic push by France and Germany to end the conflict.

Ms Donfried will be in Brussels Wednesday and Thursday "to consult with Nato allies and EU partners on efforts to pursue a diplomatic solution" to the stand-off.

US President Joe Biden and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin held a virtual summit earlier this week, in which Washington threatened Moscow with unprecedented sanctions if Ukraine is attacked.

Russia's build-up of up to 100,000 troops on the border with Ukraine has topped the agenda at this weekend's G7 foreign ministers' summit in Liverpool, England.

Russia says the deployment is a defensive measure against a possible shift by the one-time Soviet republic towards Nato.

Mr Biden had said after the call with Mr Putin that they would instruct their teams to work on follow-up talks.

Updated: December 12, 2021, 11:45 AM