US and Russian diplomats to keep talking about Ukraine border stand-off

US embassy in Kyiv posts photos of shipment of ‘close to 200,000 pounds of lethal aid’

Residents in Ukraine's second biggest city Kharkiv said they hoped for the best but would prepare for the worst as tensions between their country and Russia grows. Video: Reuters


Senior US and Russian diplomats have agreed to keep talking amid the stand-off over Ukraine after a summit held in Switzerland on Friday produced no movement on the crisis.

There are fears that Russia will invade Ukraine after Moscow massed tens of thousands of troops at the border, while the west has ramped up supplies of weapons to Kyiv.

US secretary of state Antony Blinken and Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov met for about 90 minutes in Geneva at what the American diplomat said was a “critical moment”. Expectations had been low going in, and there was no breakthrough.

Mr Blinken told Mr Lavrov the US would give Russia written responses to Moscow’s proposals next week, and suggested the two would likely meet again shortly after that — offering some hope that any invasion would be delayed for at least a few more days.


The US secretary of state said America and its allies remain resolute in rejecting Russia’s most important demands, which were reiterated on Friday.

Moscow wants Nato to promise that Ukraine will never be added as a member, that no alliance weapons will be deployed near Russian borders, and that it should pull back its forces from central and eastern Europe.

Despite that, there was no indication that the US responses would be any different from the flat-out rejections already expressed by Washington and its allies, clouding future diplomatic efforts.

“We didn’t expect any major breakthroughs to happen today, but I believe we are now on a clearer path to understanding each other’s positions,” Mr Blinken said after the meeting.

An estimated 100,000 Russian troops have been sent to areas near Ukraine, and more are moving into the area for training exercises with neighbouring Belarus.

Late on Friday, the US embassy in Kyiv tweeted photos of a shipment it said had just arrived from the America, with “close to 200,000 pounds of lethal aid, including ammunition for the front line defenders of Ukraine”.

Supplying weaponry

Western allies are also supplying weaponry and equipment to Ukraine. The UK sent anti-tank missiles earlier this week, while the defence ministers of the Baltic nations issued a statement saying they received US approval to send Stinger air defence missiles and Javelin anti-tank missiles to strengthen Kyiv’s defences.

Estonian defence minister Kalle Laanet said: “Today, Ukraine is at the forefront of separating Europe from the military conflict with Russia.

“Let’s face it — the war in Ukraine is ongoing and it is important to support Ukraine in every way we can so that they can resist the aggressor.”

The Pentagon said the USS Harry S Truman aircraft carrier and its strike group will participate in a Nato maritime exercise in the Mediterranean, which will continue until February 4th — something that had been planned since 2020, said Pentagon press secretary John Kirby.

He said officials considered whether to carry on with the exercise because of the ongoing tensions, and decided to move ahead.

Mr Kirby said the exercise was not planned anticipating a Russian move on Ukraine and is “not designed against any of the kinds of scenarios that might happen with respect to Ukraine”.

Naval manoeuvres

On Thursday, Russia announced sweeping naval manoeuvres through February, some apparently in the Black Sea.

British foreign minister Liz Truss is expected to visit Moscow in February for talks with Mr Lavrov, the RIA news agency reported on Saturday, citing a diplomatic source.

“The British foreign minister has asked for the opportunity to travel to Moscow for talks with Lavrov. Moscow has agreed for the visit in February,” RIA quoted its source as saying.

Russia’s foreign ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Speaking in Australia earlier this week, Ms Truss said Britain and its allies must respond together to global threats, deepen ties with democracies in the Indo-Pacific and “face down global aggressors” who were using economic dependence to try to get what they want. – PA/Reuters