Blinken cancels meeting with Russian foreign minister Lavrov over Ukraine

Secretary of state calls meeting off after hosting Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, who welcomed US sanctions on Russia

Secretary of State Antony Blinken, right, and Ukraine's Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba speak at the US State Department. AP
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US Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced on Tuesday that he has cancelled a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

Mr Blinken had agreed to the meeting — originally slated for Thursday — last week as part of a diplomatic bid to convince Russia not to move forward with an invasion of Ukraine.

The meeting had been contingent on Russia not commencing an invasion.

“Now that we see the invasion is beginning and Russia has made clear its wholesale rejection of diplomacy, it does not make sense to go forward with that meeting at this time,” Mr Blinken said at a press conference alongside Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba.

However, Mr Blinken said he remains “committed to diplomacy” should Russia take “demonstrable steps” to de-escalate the conflict.

“We, our partners, remain open to diplomacy,” said Mr Blinken. “But Moscow needs to demonstrate that it’s serious. The last 24 hours have demonstrated just the opposite.”

His meeting with Mr Kuleba came the same day that President Joe Biden announced the opening salvo in a series of harsh sanctions on Russia in response to the Ukraine invasion.

The first wave of measures is focused on the Corporation Bank for Development and Foreign Economic Affairs Vnesheconombank (VEB) and Promsvyazbank Public Joint Stock Company (PSB), along with 42 of their subsidiaries.

Mr Biden vowed to “escalate sanctions if Russia escalates” and promised to continue security and economic aid to Ukraine.

For his part, Mr Kuleba welcomed the Biden administration’s phased sanctions approach.

He noted that Ukrainians were initially “puzzled” by Mr Biden’s first executive order on Monday to sanction the Russian-backed breakaway territories Donetsk and Luhansk without levying any penalties on Russia.

However, he noted that Ukraine “appreciates” the Russia sanctions that the Biden administration announced on Tuesday.

“This strategy of imposing sanctions by waves, if I may put it this way, is something that can work if it continues in a sustainable way,” said Mr Kuleba.

“This pressure should continue to be stepped up. And if that involves regular issuance of executive orders or new sanctions, we will be more than happy to see that.”

Updated: February 22, 2022, 10:59 PM