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22 Feb, 2022 22:00

US cancels talks with Russia

Secretary of State Antony Blinken has canceled a planned meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov
US cancels talks with Russia

The US has called off a meeting between Secretary of State Antony Blinken and his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov, planned for Thursday in Geneva, citing what it said was the Russian “invasion” of Ukraine through the recognition of two rebel regions.

“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,” Blinken said on Tuesday, in a joint press conference with his Ukrainian counterpart Dmitry Kuleba at Foggy Bottom.

Russia had proposed the Lavrov-Blinken meeting last Wednesday, and the US accepted on Friday, at which point the time and date were set. However, the State Department made their acceptance conditional on Moscow not “invading” Ukraine – something the US now says has happened.

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday recognized the breakaway Ukrainian regions of Donetsk and Lugansk as independent republics, accusing Kiev of refusing to live up to its commitments under the Minsk agreements, in particular granting autonomy to the two regions. 

While the Russian legislature has authorized the use of troops, Putin stopped short of confirming whether any Russian forces have already been deployed to the republics. A number of videos shared online have purported to show Moscow's soldiers crossing the border in the hours after the decision was announced, but the Kremlin has refused to confirm or deny whether its personnel are in the region. The EU has, however, insisted that Russian forces have already been deployed.

Donetsk and Lugansk declared independence in 2014, after US-backed nationalists ousted the democratically elected government in Kiev in the so-called Maidan revolution. Moscow initially declined to grant their request for recognition, insisting that the conflict was an internal Ukrainian matter and taking part in the “Normandy Four” format to mediate the crisis alongside France and Germany.