US President Biden hears from his French counterpart Macron about the latter’s meetings with Russia and Ukraine leadership; meanwhile, UK’s Liz Truss flies to Moscow, seeking to pressure Russia against “invading” Ukraine.
US President Joe Biden has got a debriefing from his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron about meetings this week with the leaders of Russia and Ukraine, while Britain’s top diplomat flew to Moscow in a bid to ease regional tensions.
“They discussed President Macron’s recent meetings,” a White House statement said on Wednesday.
“They also talked about ongoing diplomatic and deterrence efforts, undertaken in close coordination with our allies and partners, in response to Russia’s continued military build-up on Ukraine’s borders.”
Macron met both with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy this week in a bid to find a diplomatic path out of the crisis sparked by Russia’s positioning of a large military force on Ukraine’s border while demanding that the ex-Soviet republic never be allowed to join the Western NATO alliance.
Both French and Russian officials have made cautiously optimistic statements since then, although the Kremlin has sent mixed signals and continues its huge build-up of forces on Ukraine’s sea and land borders.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who was at the White House on Monday, is to visit Ukraine and Russia next week.
The White House has said repeatedly that it is working to maintain a united front with European capitals.
UK’s Truss travels to Moscow
Also on Wednesday, Britain’s Foreign Secretary Liz Truss flew to Moscow, seeking to defuse tensions and warning that an invasion would bring “massive consequences for all involved.”
“Russia has a choice here. We strongly encourage them to engage, de-escalate and choose the path of diplomacy,” Truss said ahead of departing on the first visit to Moscow by the UK’s top envoy in more than four years.
“Russia should be in no doubt about the strength of our response,” said Truss, who will meet Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov during the two-day visit.
Russia rejects ‘absurd’ claims
The Russian Foreign Ministry retorted by calling for a “change in the tone” of British rhetoric.
Its spokesperson Maria Zakharova rejected warnings from Washington and its allies of a possible Russian invasion, calling them “absurd.”
“We have no aggressive plans, but I have a feeling that the US does,” she said, adding that Washington’s statements reminded her of the rhetoric before the US war in Iraq.
Several dozen Ukrainians rallied outside the US Embassy in Kiev, urging Washington to use its international clout to prevent a Russian offensive.
Western leaders in recent weeks have engaged in multiple rounds of high-stakes diplomacy in hopes of de-escalating the crisis.