US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has met face to face with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to warn Russia that it will suffer “serious consequences” if it launches a new attack on Ukraine and to persuade it to choose diplomacy. .

Blinken issued a warning to Lavrov in Stockholm on December 2 at an OSCE ministerial meeting, a day after he said Washington was ready to respond decisively, including through severe economic sanctions, to a Russian attack on Ukraine.

Western and Ukrainian officials are concerned that the stationing of a large number of Russian soldiers on the border with Ukraine, where they have been after a large military exercise since the beginning of the year, may mean that Russia is preparing for a raid. Moscow has insisted it has no such intention, accusing its opponents of hiding its alleged aggressive plans.

“The best way to avoid the crisis is through diplomacy,” Blinken told reporters before starting talks with Lavrov.

He said Moscow and Kiev should each fulfill their obligations under the 2014 Minsk peace accords, which aim to end the pro-Russian separatist war against Ukrainian government forces in eastern Ukraine.

Washington is willing to facilitate the deal, but if Russia decides to continue the confrontation, there will be serious consequences, “said the US foreign minister.

The two officials, Russian and American, talked for about 30 minutes, the highest-level meeting between the United States and Russia at a June summit between Presidents Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin.

A senior State Department official said Blinken and Lavrov had a “serious, sober and professional” meeting.

Lavrov told reporters that Moscow was ready for dialogue with Kiev. “We do not want any conflict,” said President (Vladimir) Putin, “Lavrov said. The German news agency (DPA) even quotes him as suggesting that Russia is open to US involvement in the implementation of the Minsk agreements.

On December 1, Russian President Vladimir Putin warned NATO not to deploy troops and weapons in Ukraine, saying that this was a red line for Russia and that its violation would trigger a strong response.

The message was reiterated by Foreign Minister Lavrov at the Stockholm meeting with Blinken, but also in the speech at the OSCE Annual Ministerial Council. Lavrov said any new NATO enlargement to the east would jeopardize Russia’s “fundamental security interests.”

“In dialogue with the United States and its allies, we will insist on the development of agreements that exclude any further NATO advance to the east and the deployment of threatening weapons systems in the immediate vicinity of Russian territory,” Lavrov was quoted as saying. of the Kremlin.

Russia annexed the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea in 2014 and offered support to pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine in the seven-and-a-half-year war in Kiev, which killed more than 13,200 people.

Ukraine, which has been asking for several years to be accepted into the Western politico-military alliance, says it is working with Western allies on a package that would discourage a new Russian incursion. “We are working closely together to develop a comprehensive package, including severe economic sanctions, to discourage Russia from other aggressive moves,” Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba wrote on Twitter after a meeting with Blinken in Stockholm.

The US Secretary of State reiterated that the United States has “a strong and firm commitment to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine”, as well as “deep concerns about Russia’s plans to renew aggression against Ukraine”. This “is a concern shared by many in Europe,” Blinken said.

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