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Blinken cancels meeting with Lavrov, citing Russian 'invasion'

The move follows an announcement by the White House that it's slapping a first tranche of sanctions on Moscow.

Analysis | Europe

The much-anticipated meeting between U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov has been canceled by the Americans, according to reports.

"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 announced Tuesday afternoon. "I consulted with our allies and partners — all agree."

According to CNN, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian announced his Friday meeting with Lavrov has been canceled, too. 

The Blinken-Lavrov meeting, which had been set before Putin’s fiery speech Sunday declaring independence for the breakaway republics of Donetsk and Luhasnk in Eastern Ukraine, was supposed to serve as a sort of diplomatic release valve for the tensions between the two countries, which had risen to a fever pitch in recent days and weeks.

Up until now, the White House had been hesitant to call Putin’s recent moves a full-on invasion of Ukraine — which would trigger more expansive economic sanctions and possibly additional military assistance to President Zelensky. But on Tuesday, it joined the EU in announcing a first round of financial sanctions against Russia, promising more if Putin continues to escalate. Germany also announced that it was putting a pause on the approval process for the Nord Stream 2 pipeline.

Blinken said talks would only commence if “Russia is prepared to take demonstrable steps to provide the international community with any degree of confidence it's serious about deescalating and finding a diplomatic solution." No response from Russia on the canceled meeting, yet.

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken gives opening remarks at NATO in Brussels, Belgium on March 23, 2021. [State Department photo by Ron Przysucha/ Public Domain]
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